9 hours ago
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.