Me and Talese in the Middle | Guernica

In the Spring I was invited to speak at the Power of Narrative conference in Boston. I remember attending the conference years ago, admiring the speakers and imagining–hoping for–the opportunity to write long form narrative pieces. To be invited to speak was huge honor. The conference was also the setting where famed writer Gay Talese said that not one woman had inspired him. Indeed, he went to say that educated, writerly women are averse to running with the shady crowd he favors.

Later that evening Talese and I attended a private reception for conference speakers.

Gay Talese stood alone in the middle of the crowded salon. He reached into his coat pocket for the “note cards” which he famously cuts from shirt boards. Talese, it was clear, had been taking notes. He shuffled them and stuffed them back, then pivoted and walked toward the bookcase. I tracked his progress, waiting for the right moment to make my move.

I grabbed his arm and introduced myself.

“Mr. Talese,” I said, before introducing myself and explaining that I had reported from Mexico after President Felipe Calderon launched his so-called “drug war,” in which over 100,000 people have died and tens of thousands more have disappeared. I quickly went through my career highlights with misfits, criminals, and the outcast, on both sides of the border. But had I interviewed a voyeur, he wanted to know.

He remarked that I was a “sexy woman,” before we took a photo. In a piece for Guernica I deliver my account of the events and a reflection about the sensibility he embodies, one that still dominates the press. The piece and the photograph can be found Me and Talese: Guernica.

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