Things not to do



Read Janet Malcolm when you are hating yourself.

Read Janet Malcolm when you have had a 20 minute interview.

Read Janet Malcolm when you are still a reporter


Some excerpts:

"every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible..."

"An interview, after all, is only as good as the journalist who conducts it, and I felt -- to put it bluntly -- that Keeler, with his prepared questions and his newspaper-reporter's directness, would not get from his subjects the kind of authentic responses that I try to elicit from mine with a more Japanese technique. When I finally read Keeler's transcripts, however, I was in for a surprise and an illumination. MacDonald and McGinniss had said exactly the same things to the unsubtle Keeler that they had said to me. It hadn't made the slightest difference that Keeler had read from a list of prepared questions and I had acted as if I were passing the time of day. From Keeler's blue book I learned the same truth about subjects that the analyst learns about patients: they will tell their story to anyone who will listen to it, and the story will not be affected by the behavior or personality of the listener; just as ("good enough") analysts are interchangeable, so are journalists. My McGinniss and Keeler's McGinniss were the same person, and so were my MacDonald and Keeler's MacDonald and McGinniss's MacDonald. The subject, like the patient, dominates the relationship and calls the shots. The journalist cannot create his subjects any more than the analyst can create his patients."

"Like the credulous widow who wakes up one day to find the charming young man and all her savings gone, so the consenting subject of a piece of nonfiction writing learns -- when the article or book appears -- his hard lesson ... He has to face the fact that the journalist -- who seemed so friendly and sympathetic, so keen to understand him fully, so remarkably attuned to his vision of things -- never had the slightest intention of collaborating with him on his story but always intended to write a story of his own."

Sigh.

7 comments:

well, at least she gives us the opening of blaming the bad interviews on bad interviewees.

July 6, 2008 at 9:12 PM  

really? man you are giving me hope. i thought she was saying there's no point to our existance. :)

July 6, 2008 at 10:16 PM  

tadaaa!

"The subject, like the patient, dominates the relationship and calls the shots. The journalist cannot create his subjects any more than the analyst can create his patients."

July 6, 2008 at 10:33 PM  

note to self: must not let depression affect reading comprehension

July 6, 2008 at 10:39 PM  

it's a regular symptom of working on sundays. *nods wisely

July 6, 2008 at 11:00 PM  

but analysts do create their patients..No?

July 9, 2008 at 11:19 AM  

ayyo out of my depth... retires in confusion

July 9, 2008 at 12:08 PM  

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