Tagged: nieman storyboard

The Annotated “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold”

Q: Not that there’s a great place to ask this, but what did Sinatra smell like? This is the sort of detail that rarely ends up in a profile.

A: I don’t know. I didn’t write about it and I didn’t think about it.

Gay Talese’s “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold” is accurately considered one of the greatest celebrity profiles ever written as well as a sterling example of literary journalism. Elon Green went through the story with Talese for Nieman Storyboard, finding out a lot of interesting tidbits about how Talese wrote the thing.

There are some really good Talese quotes, like this one: “I never thought it was new journalism. It was writing short stories with real names. But it’s not very interesting to put it that way.” And this: “It’s nonfiction. It’s fact-reporting. It’s beautiful.” And there’s great stuff about how Talese felt about Sinatra (a controlling guy, but understandably so, says Talese), how he picked the Sinatra songs to quote, where he got certain information and all sorts of other angles.

I highly recommend reading it.

And, just in case you missed it, Green and Sebastian Junger annotated “The Storm” over the summer. It was also pretty great.

Sebastian Junger’s Writing Advice

I try to edit my work in different states of mind. So I’ll go running on a really hot day and then read the 2,000 words I just wrote. Or if I’m upset, or really sleepy, or if I’m drunk, I’ll read this stuff. If you’re sleepy and you find yourself skipping over a paragraph because you’re bored by it and just want to get to the interesting part, it comes out. Those different states of mind are a really interesting filter.

Sebastian Junger’s article “The Storm” (which inspired his book “The Perfect Storm”) ran in Outside Magazine nearly two decades ago. In a delightful feature over at Nieman Storyboard, Junger went through the story answering Elon Green‘s questions about how it was written and reported. The entire thing is a great read, filled with wonderful and worthwhile advice from Junger.

(It’s part of an ongoing Nieman series called Annotation Tuesday, where other writers sit down and go through their stories discussing how they were written.)