The New Kings of Nonfiction
Edited by Ira Glass
This is going to have to be a short review. For a couple reasons. First: beyond “this was a really wonderful stellar collection of nonfiction” I have nothing to say. Second, I’m on some super tight deadlines with the third issue of Johnny Hiro. I’m sorry. I’ll hope for better next week.
thanks – d.
I’m not sure when I started appreciating the art of short non-fiction; I think it must have started slowly. When my dad would pick up my brother and me from school Terry Gross’s show would be playing on the car radio. I can remember how focused we were on those interviews, we’d hold off the how-was-school conversation. We’d let Terry carry us home, and if we pulled into the driveway before the show was over, we’d wait another 10-15 minuets to get to the end of the story.
So when I picked up The New Kings it was this bit of the introduction hooked me to the book, “And these writers are all entertainers, in the best sense of the world. I know that’s not how we usually talk about great reporting, but it’s a huge part of these stories. Great scenes, great characters, great moments. Often they’re funny. There’s a cheerful embracing of life in this kind of journalism, and a curiosity about the world.” I believe I’ve inherited (from both parents) a great curiosity about the world. It’s why we listened to Terry Gross. It’s why I’m hooked on “This American Life.” It’s why I read nonfiction, and why I’m an avid fan of the New York Times.
Ira Glass has a way of finding news stories that reach beyond facts to reveal something larger. Glass also likes to find the stories that no ones reported on yet, or they’ve gone to write about something that hasn’t been explored. But mostly, these stories are simply good stories; they’re entertaining. And all of these stories are great. That’s it they’re great. There are some heavy hitters included: Bill Bryson, David Foster Wallace, and Chuck Klosterman along with a few that were new to me: Michael Lewis and mark Bowden.
So I’ll just mention one. In “Power Steer” by Michael Pollan explores the beef industry in an extremely personal way, he purchase a steer to follows the bovines journey through the entire beef industry cycle. He talks about the differences between corn fed cattle and grass fed. He exposes the elaborate social, economic, and political structure that supports the cattle industry. But most of all he does in such a way that there are no villains….the entire thing is just one big mess. It’s heartbreaking and fascinating. Pollan isn’t shy about writing such a gruesome tale. I was both awed and horrified.
That’s all. It’s terrific. Go spend 15 bucks and feel good about your purchase.