Friday, November 12, 2010

Blog 19: Tracy Kidder

Tracey Kidder's writing appears to be an off-shoot and fusion of new journalism respectively coupled with travel journalism. Kidder is not quite immersive because he doesn't need to cover himself or hide his goals. Instead, Kidder travels to the story and makes a story out of what he sees rather than thinking of an opportunity and crafting a story around what he senses to be an opportunity. Having the ability to see a town like Hamp/Noho, notice fringe members of the society and write a story that weaves them together into a journalistic book makes Kidder a traveling journalist, in my opinion. He writes the details that are the essence of the place and uses the characters' unique characteristics to define them, not exploit them. For Mountains Beyond Mountains, he attempted to paint the man as man, as father, as human. Kidder wanted to show the power but also the making of Paul Farmer. He did not immerse himself in the subject but rather observed and saw Farmer's cause, adding to the travel journalism aspect while detracting from immersion.

There shouldn't be a question of this as a legitimate form. The genre of new journalism leaves room for experimentation and Kidder has innovated what has already been accepted. It appears that he presents his characters as truthfully as he sees them, making these works more than just fiction and more than a simple relay of what he has witnessed. Also, being able to bring the stories of the people together makes this more than a simple retelling but also a weaving of a society. But one attribute that does not coincide with travel journalism is the excitement of his subjects. Rather than traveling to exotic places and bringing audiences tales of places they can only read about and never visit, Kidder takes the ordinary townspeople and makes their inner lives more prominent.

I would like to do something like this because it seems to involve getting out into the community and getting to know people on their level, not just professionally or in one respect but how they think and what they are like as people, intricacies and 'character flaws' included. Copious notes wouldn't be my favorite part of the job, but understanding the subject in such depth is pertinent to the story. I would also love to travel so that is another plus for this genre.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Blog 18: Avis Meyer

Meyer is not necessarily defending literary journalism. Instead, he brings attention to the fact that the writers were so varied and although branching from many previous experiences and writing backgrounds, each has built on the empire of writing. He seems to be defending the merit of the writing more than the ability of the writers themselves. People seem to have discounted the writing of these authors because they do not write traditional news stories in the inverted pyramid style.

On page five, Meyer makes distinctions about the authors and the different genres they write for different literary publications. He does not esteem one author or genre over another; each is portrayed with care and attention that shows his belief that each is necessary to journalism as a whole. Each one has contributed to the growth of publication of the written word (i.e., newspapers, magazines, journals).

Meyer also points out the vocations of the writers before and sometimes after they write for newspapers or magazines. He may do this to show that these authors did not just materialize and begin to write, regardless of skill or experience. He verifies that these writers are professionals and have a solid background in reporting and the field of journalism.

Also, in Sandburg and Hemingway's cases, Meyer points out the usefulness of their careers before poetry and writing, respectively. Before these two notable authors took the stage in other genres, they got their feet wet in the little stream known as literary journalism. In Steinbeck and Hemingway's cases, Meyer relates how the background experience that they had fortified them as writers. Hemingway relied on his experiences of writing in Europe and Steinbeck used his Hooverville sightings in writing The Grapes of Wrath.

The career paths of the writers that Meyer mentions show that literary journalism can be used as an occupational plateau and/or stepping stone for writers. Some of these writers continued to go on and publish more outside of this realm while some created names for themselves in this genre. He shows the effectiveness and questions why some people do not give the full amount of credit due to these writers; they have proven themselves prolific and talented with the ability to relay information and inform their audience as well as entertain.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Blog 17: Sketch like Crane's

The crowd jostled and moved, dipped and swayed, not in unison but not against each other. Each movement was jerky or smooth, planned or erratic, but each was an attempt at keeping time to the thumping bass on the dance floor, oblivious to the heat waves emanating around the small room.

The music pulsed and the peopled danced, meshing and colliding with each other. A heavy set drunk in red stumbled backwards. Her shoulder length brown hair was plastered to the frame of her face as she sloshed into the arms of strangers. With their support, she regained her feet and a little of her posture. She turned with enormous eyes and a smile stretched wider than a taxi with open doors and jumped around, promptly losing her footing and tumbling again into the crowd. She was caught again but this time pointed in another direction, maneuvered towards the stage where her chances to balance herself were increased. She turned her smile-stricken face and jumped away into the throng of bodies, moving, beating, shaking with rhythm.

A main stage crowded the back of the room. Couples danced tightly, twining arms through arms, around faces and over shoulders as legs weaved to create a structure of support. Trios move together, complicating the already desperate attempt at finding a common ground and jiving, touching, pulling, tripping together while maintaining balance. Cigarette smoke climbs high into the air and the beer coats the ground, adding to the obstacles of their already complicated dance.

A girl with hair pinned up on her head, more straight than her dancing routine, treaded on stage as "Here we go again, I feel the chemicals kicking in..." blared from the speakers beneath her. A young man in a dark shirt promenaded playfully towards her as she turned her body to receive his advances. The bass dictated their movements as he stepped closer, bringing their proximity to uncomfortable in the sweltering room. They joined hands and reveled together in each other's grace and fluid motions. The girl's small frame and low visibility due to her dance partner's size rendered her unaware of another young man sauntering up to her dance partner. The darkly clad young man was enraptured with the girl and failed to see his pursuer, with dark jeans and a white shirt, stepping slowly closer to him and seemingly wondering how close, how close, this much closer...

The heat seemed to infiltrate the crowd, making one person for every two and filling the space between groups. Instead of swishing, skirts stuck. Instead of hanging, shirts clung. Movement increased and diminished as the songs became dominated by bass or lyrics. Words had a soothing effect on the pulse of the crowd while the music amped the reactions. Higher and higher the crowd climbed, as the beat pounded. Hands left hips and were raised above heads. Drinks were lifted to avoid the crash and crumble of the crowd. "I'm supposed to interfere, I'm coming from your fears" throbs from the speakers on the floor, flooding the room with techno sounds. Girl's hair is flipped this way and cleaves another's shoulder with a sweaty grip.

The last song drips from the speakers as people drain the last of their beers, fix their tabs and find their original or new escorts. "Payin' anything to roll the dice, just one more time" permeates the thinning room as the crowd spills onto North Main Street.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Blog 16: Markey

Markey’s treatment of writing about Number 48,227 is exactly the inverse of what the other ‘characters’ would have readers believe.  While the buriers, priests, superintendents and morgue workers are most concerned with people that are identifiable, that have names and families that will knowingly miss them, Markey has taken Number 48,227 from the rest, out of oblivion, and made him a person.  Despite the lack of persona or identification (even Willie seems trivial), Number 48,227 becomes the only name/recognition that anyone receives.  Even the workers are nameless and faceless.  But Markey does name all the places and inanimate objects; the boat name is known, the East River is mentioned, as well as the park, island, places and gates that the company passes through on their way to burial.  Number 48,227 practically becomes one of these inanimate objects and a part of the surroundings because he is the only person referred to with a title.
            The use of status details is used to reinforce the anonymity of Number 48,227 and to secure his place as a respectable person.   Markey ensures that he is given proper respect and care because he is buried in the Catholic lot.  He is cleared of any crime because his prints don’t match those of a common local pickpocket.  Markey seems to imply that he was well off and not part of the working class because he had a decent amount of money and his hands proved that he was not accustomed to hard or rough physical labor.  His scapular proved that he had faith in God and no one could prove that he had committed suicide so he took his place amongst other Catholics. 
            The scene-by-scene construction serves almost as a purgatory.  He travels through the ranks and is cleared of guilt on each level, eventually gaining the blessing of a priest before being interred in the burial plot.  In each office or room, Number 48,227 is given a positive attribute or saving grace that clears him of guilt and he gets a free “release for burial” stamp and is sent to the next level. 
            The dialogue doesn’t seem to add a lot of context.  While it helps to set Number 48,227 apart because he has no voice and cannot tell his story or whether he was murdered or committed suicide, I don’t feel that it really adds much depth to the story.   In having a numeraled man with a description among a sea of faceless workers, Markey has already set the unidentified dead man apart.
            Markey was a writer that did a good deal of traveling and chronicled what he saw.  He also wrote a moving piece about the beginning of Alcoholics Anonymous.He played a backseat role, often documenting the movement and action around him while being immersed in it but never played a central part.  He toured 16,000 miles of the country and had his observations published in This Country of Yours.

For my article, I would like to cover something either sports or community related.  Possibly an event in the community or some kind of athletic event.  I'd like to write about the place and possibly pick a person to shadow throughout to see the event through their eyes as well.