A selection of witty and provocative essays from the father of New Journalism, Gay Talese's Frank Sinatra Has a Cold and Other Essays is published in Penguin Modern Classics.Gay Talese is the father of American New Journalism, who transformed traditional reportage with his vivid scene-setting, sharp observation and rich storytelling. His 1966 piece for Esquire, one of the most celebrated magazine articles ever published, describes a morose Frank Sinatra silently nursing a glass of bourbon, struck down with a cold and unable to sing, like 'Picasso without paint, Ferrari without fuel - only worse'. The other writings in this selection include a description of a meeting between two legends, Fidel Castro and Muhammad Ali; a brilliantly witty dissection of the offices of Vogue magazine; an account of travelling to Ireland with hellraising actor Peter O'Toole; and a profile of fading baseball star Joe DiMaggio, which turns into a moving, immaculately-crafted meditation on celebrity. Gay Talese (b. 1932) is an American author. He wrote for The New York Times in the early 1960s and helped to define literary journalism or 'new nonfiction reportage', also known as New Journalism. His most famous articles are about Joe DiMaggio, Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra. He lives in New York with his wife, Nan Talese.If you enjoyed Frank Sinatra has a Cold, you might like George Orwell's Essays, also published in Penguin Modern Classics.'The best American prose of the second half of the twentieth century' Atlantic Monthly'The best non-fiction writer in America' Mario Puzo, author of The Godfather'A masterful New Journalism pioneer ... raises the magazine article to the level of an art form'Los Angeles Times
- Paperback | 208 pages
- 128 x 196 x 14mm | 81.65g
- 22 Jun 2011
- Penguin Books Ltd
- PENGUIN CLASSICS
- London, United Kingdom
Book Review: Frank Sinatra Has a Cold and Other Essays by Gay TalesePosted: March 24, 2017| Author:chrisebpage|Filed under:Books, Reviews | Tags:book reviews (non-fiction), books, books 2017, Frank Sinatra Has a Cold, Gay Talese|
The title piece of this collection was mentioned in The Girl in the Spider’s Web and after a quick Google I decided to check out Talese’s writing. And I’m glad I did so.
Talese is a fantastic writer with a great eye for detail and small, quiet moments. His writing is engaging, warm and filled with clever observation. He was one of the front runners of “New Journalism” which was more subjective, literary and informal than what had come before.
Talese puts you right in the heart of his stories and the focus of his pieces is informed by his attitudes and feelings. He writes about boxer Floyd Patterson languishing in misery and embarrassment after a loss to Sonny Liston, a melancholy portrait reflecting his habit of empathy for the defeated.
The pieces are collected from over thirty years and so a theme is hard to pin down. What does appear in several is fragile or damaged masculinity. Most evident in Patterson hiding out after a loss it appears elsewhere; Joe Louis is shown in middle age, his prime years before, Frank Sinatra’s talent, his voice, is shaken by illness and this throws him off. Similarly in an article from the ’90s we see two enemies of the American establishment in the ’60s, Muhammad Ali and Fidel Castro, meet as ageing men both with poor health.
Sinatra demands to be in charge, is shown to be a man who hates disrespect and being made to look foolish. Patterson has a fake beard in his dressing room so he can sneak out should he lose. Talese homes in on these insecurities, on male proud it’s even in the story he tells of his father where a wily tailor tricks a mafioso using the man’s vanity and fear of looking stupid to win the day.
While many pieces feature famous faces there are other examples where Talese turns his focus on less well known subjects. He writes about the offices of Vogue in a wry piece where he steals the language of the magazine to describe it’s workers. There is an article about the dedicated, grim work of an obituary writer at a major newspaper as well as personal essays about his father in Italy or how he became a writer.
Despite the time he wrote in Talese seems liberal and even handed. His portraits of black boxers avoids racist stereotyping or condescension, which can mar other articles from this era. The one misstep is that during the Sinatra piece he refers to Ali by his former name Clay, which many sportswriters were guilty of, but it’s hard to see any malice here, perhaps ignorance or the insistence of an editor?
Talese’s writing and the empathy, insight and understanding that resonates through it show that he was a student and lover of human nature, and a keen observer. Each portrait is engrossing and detailed, providing a real sense of all who feature.
A great read and I shall be checking out more of his writing in future.
Verdict: A talented nonfiction writer Talese produces essays which are involving and insightful. He captures the small, quiet moments that reveal the bigger characters and deeper stories. A delight. 9/10.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.