Monday, March 18, 2013

A perfectly splendid life

The late 1950's introduced the participating journalist, the most participatingist was today's birthday boy George Plimpton.  A participating journalist was one who was part of the story.  George wrote what it was like to pitch to baseball's greatest hitters, or box with the champ, play goalie in the NHL after pitching to the best, boxing the champ and playing goal.  His most famous work Paper Lion, published 50 years ago this year, related what it's like to be a rookie quarterback in an NFL training camp, by being a quarterback.  The book later became a movie starring Alan Alda as George.

George did far more than tell funny stories though.  As a founder of the Paris Review, which celebrates its 60th year this year, he created a great literary magazine, and perhaps as importantly created the Writers at Work a continuing series of interviews with notable writers discussing their craft and motivations.  Collected regularly as  Paris Review Interviews they make fascinating reading, especially for a close look at craftsmen (and women) working diligently at work they love.

If you are unfamiliar with his work, try the Best of Plimpton.  Start with The Amazing Story of Sidd Finch, finish with Fireworks.  

Happy Birthday George.



Colt said...

When I was young boy George Plimpton hosted a television program on the very new Disney Channel called "Mousterpiece Theater". It was far and away my favorite program. I asked my mother who the man was, and why he was chosen to host. She then told me he was the definitive Renaissance Man, and went on to explain what that meant. It sounded like the perfect profession to me.

When my kindergarten teacher asked each student in the class what they wanted to be when the grew up mixed among the many firefighters, policeman, nurses, mommies, etc. came my answer of a Renaissance Man like George Plimpton. She checked on my yearly till her death to see how I was progressing in that chosen calling.

Thanks George for inspiring many of my life's adventures.

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