Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Tag Archives: Pulitzer Prize

Ever Heard of Literary Journalism…?


I’ve had many re-blogs here from Brevity’s Nonfiction Blog… Literary Journalism

And, I’ve covered the journalism beat a few times:

Investigative Journalists Are Storytellers, Too…

Journalists Have a Lot to Teach Other Writers . . .

More about Journalists; Because, sometimes, They’re the Most Important Writers We Have…

Today, I’m featuring an article by John McPhee, who’s won a Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction, has been a teacher of literary journalism, and a staff writer at The New Yorker.

I think regular readers here know that I think all writers can pass on valuable information to all other writers, no matter what particular kind of writing they pursue.

Let’s look at a few excerpts from McPhee’s article from The New YorkerOmission ~ Choosing what to leave out (as always, I urge readers to take advantage of perusing the full article…):

“Writing is selection. Just to start a piece of writing you have to choose one word and only one from more than a million in the language. Now keep going. What is your next word? Your next sentence, paragraph, section, chapter? Your next ball of fact. You select what goes in and you decide what stays out. At base you have only one criterion: If something interests you, it goes in—if not, it stays out. That’s a crude way to assess things, but it’s all you’ve got. Forget market research. Never market-research your writing. Write on subjects in which you have enough interest on your own to see you through all the stops, starts, hesitations, and other impediments along the way.

“Ideally, a piece of writing should grow to whatever length is sustained by its selected material—that much and no more.”

There was much of interest written about his life in journalism before that last excerpt and there is much before this one:

“…inevitably we have come to Ernest Hemingway and the tip of the iceberg—or, how to fashion critical theory from one of the world’s most venerable clichés. ‘If a writer of prose knows enough about what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water.’”

And, an excerpt that very well may cause many writers to deeply contemplate their writerly ways:

“The creative writer leaves white space between chapters or segments of chapters. The creative reader silently articulates the unwritten thought that is present in the white space. Let the reader have the experience. Leave judgment in the eye of the beholder. When you are deciding what to leave out, begin with the author. If you see yourself prancing around between subject and reader, get lost. Give elbow room to the creative reader. In other words, to the extent that this is all about you, leave that out.”

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” In times of dread, artists must never choose to remain silent.”


The quote in the title of this post is from Toni Morrison, Nobel Prize- and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, playwright, literary critic, editor, and Professor Emeritus at Princeton University.

Toni Morrison

Image Courtesy of Entheta https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Entheta/gallery Under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

In the disturbing political and social climate throughout the U.S.A.’s recent Presidential Campaign, much dread was spread…

It seems to be still spreading—disturbing many, engulfing some, inflaming a few…

The Nation had an article by Toni (that, to me, speaks eloquently to the dread) entitled, No Place for Self-Pity, No Room for Fear.

I encourage anyone even faintly artistic, from any country, to read that article…

I’ll share just a few excerpts.

Concerning dictators and tyrants, she says:

“Their plan is simple:

“1. Select a useful enemy—an ‘Other’—to convert rage into conflict, even war.

“2. Limit or erase the imagination that art provides, as well as the critical thinking of scholars and journalists.

“3. Distract with toys, dreams of loot, and themes of superior religion or defiant national pride that enshrine past hurts and humiliations.”

She asks the question:

“In this contemporary world of violent protests, internecine war, cries for food and peace, in which whole desert cities are thrown up to shelter the dispossessed, abandoned, terrified populations running for their lives and the breath of their children, what are we (the so-called civilized) to do?”

More insight and another question:

“The solutions gravitate toward military intervention and/or internment—killing or jailing. Any gesture other than those two in this debased political climate is understood to be a sign of weakness. One wonders why the label ‘weak’ has become the ultimate and unforgivable sin. Is it because we have become a nation so frightened of others, itself and its citizens that it does not recognize true weakness: the cowardice in the insistence on guns everywhere, war anywhere?”

And, her rallying cry:

“This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.”

Her final statement (though, there is much more wisdom in the full article…):

“I know the world is bruised and bleeding, and though it is important not to ignore its pain, it is also critical to refuse to succumb to its malevolence. Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge—even wisdom. Like art.”

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Is The Novel Dying?


I’ve included two short videos in this post. One of Philip Roth, one of Paul Auster–both award-winning novelists.

It will take you about six minutes to watch both. I would *Love* to read your comments about them.

Does one of them “win” the debate?

Are both partially right?

Or, are both dead wrong?

Philip Roth: The Novel is a Dying Animal

Paul Auster: Why Roth Is Wrong About the Novel

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