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English Muse: The New Kings of Nonfiction

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The New Kings of Nonfiction

Since most of the books I buy these days are from secondhand stores, the one I'm reading now is a little old but still good. It's called "The New Kings of Nonfiction," and it was edited by This American Life host Ira Glass. When it was published in 2007, it was heralded as a collection of stories that capture "some of the best storytelling of this golden age of nonfiction."

It includes authors Malcolm Gladwell, Michael Pollan, the late David Foster Wallace and a number of other male writers. Surprisingly, one of my favorite female writers -- Susan Orlean -- is also in the mix. I wouldn't call Orlean a King but rather a Journalism Goddess. Her profiles in the New Yorker have become legendary, full of insights and scenes that make her subjects come alive.

The "New Kings" book includes Orlean's article "The American Man, Age Ten," which she wrote for Esquire Magazine. It's a profile of a boy named Colin Duffy.

A snippet: "Here are the particulars about Colin Duffy: He is ten years old, on the nose. He is four feet eight inches high, weighs seventy-five pounds, and appears to be mostly leg and shoulder blade....I have rarely seen him without a baseball cap. He owns several, but favors a University of Michigan Wolverines model, on account of its pleasing colors. The hat styles his hair into wild disarray. If you ever managed to get the hat off his head, you would see a boy with a nimbus of golden-brown hair, dented in the back..."

After I finish "New Kings" I want to re-read "The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup," Orlean's compilation of some of her favorite profiles. (Her essay on the taxidermy convention is the best!)

What are you reading this week?

(Illustration by Contemporary Collage and for sale, as a refrigerator magnet, on Etsy.)

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Blogger sami chu. said...

i just started james joyce's dubliners.
it has been a while since i have read anything by him and meg wolitzer mentions his story "the dead" in her book, the wife, which i just finished! i love second hand books, this one is super old.


July 14, 2011 at 3:16 AM  
Blogger Katherine said...

Just finished Daisy Hay's Young Romantics. Not sure what to read next - saving The Crimson Petal and the White for holidays in August.

July 14, 2011 at 5:29 AM  
Blogger loucieee said...

Hi! I'm rading Guy de Maupassant's compiled works. :)

July 14, 2011 at 8:17 AM  
Blogger Molly McGonigle said...

I love that you're back to publishing regularly! Oh, how we've missed you. I'm reading Lake Wobegon Summer 1956.

July 14, 2011 at 10:35 PM  
Blogger English Muse said...

oh thank you!! i'm so happy to be back!! things are much less complicated in my life. i'm enjoying these summer days -- reading, spending time with my daughter and searching for new blog items!

July 15, 2011 at 1:21 AM  
Blogger Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Orlean is fantastic! I'm currently reading Kafka was the Rage, a memoir set in 1940s Greenwich Village, in anticipation of an upcoming trip to NYC. I also just finished A Visit From the Goon Squad, which was so good.

July 15, 2011 at 8:03 AM  
Blogger Maria Speidel said...

I'm reading Just Kids by Patti Smith and marveling at idea of the artistic, creative life in the pre-digital age. When she and Robert Mapplethorpe lived together in Brooklyn in the '60s, they had no radio or TV, just a few records that they listened to over and over again, while they worked on drawings and poetry.

Life is so different now, isn't it?

July 15, 2011 at 10:05 AM  
Blogger Erzulimojo said...

I just picked up Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel which won the 2009 Booker Prize (and why I selected it at the thrift shop) . . . historical fiction featuring Cardinal Wolsey, Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII, et al. Pretty good about 100 pages in to its 650. I agree about Just Kids -- such a time piece and so evocative. Loved that.

July 15, 2011 at 11:41 AM  
Blogger Stacey said...

I am always looking for a great used book store here in L.A. can you tell me if there are any good ones here in the Burbank area as I just moved here?

August 4, 2011 at 9:08 AM  

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