Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Reading Response: Lots of Assignments

Telling True Stories

I found this much easier to read than the Franklin book from last week.  The input from various nonfiction authors made the message a much more diverse one.  Isabel Wilkerson's insights on interviewing particularly attracted my attention, because they seem like things I can apply to the upcoming profile piece assignment.  Her idea of "accelerated intimacy" made it clear that interviewing a subject involves more than formal questions and a formal conversation, something that I often have trouble doing when I interview.  

Many of the writers talked about recording important visual elements during an interview.  This seems particularly important when doing a profile piece.  I don't usually note these things because I often write news stories where they aren't essential.  Since I hope to eventually go into radio, this is an important tip all around.  When capturing audio it's often important to supplement with descriptions of where the reporter is at the time.  In general, most of the things I read in this book were things that seemed obvious when I looked at them laid out on a page, but were also things I have often not thought to do in my writing thus far.  The grey boxes scattered throughout the chapters added to this, giving differing opinions on basic concepts (using tape recorders, how to do an in-depth interview, etc.)

The American Man at Age Ten by Susan Orlean

It took me many, many paragraphs to get into this piece.  It started with a laundry list of traits about the boy in question that I couldn't help but skim over.  When Orlean did pull me in though, I was fascinated.  The story was heavy on dialogue, which is what really helped me to understand Colin and his fifth-grade world.  He said things that made me laugh  out loud.  Case in point: "Well, if you're a grown-up you'd have a car, and whenever you felt like it, you could get into your car and drive somewhere and get candy."  This as the biggest advantage to being an adult.  I've observed ten-year-old boys while working at camp, but never have I had this much of a glimpse into their thoughts.  Orlean inserted herself into the narrative, but only occasionally, which I think was a good choice on her part.  Sometimes she expressed surprise at Colin's actions, but for the most part I really felt like I got to read about the kid.

Trina and Trina by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc

I had so many mixed feelings about this piece.  It was definitely well written.  In terms of form, I liked that LeBlanc wove back and forth between present tense retellings, snippets of a year thrown together quickly and excerpts from Trina's journal.  I thought she did well with regards to giving a full picture of Trina in the best way that an outsider could do.  LeBlanc consciously inserted herself into the story, and I felt her emotions alongside her as she watched Trina constantly shape up and relapse in an endless cycle.

We talked about ethics a bit in class today (I'm writing this late, apologies).  That was my biggest hangup with the story.  It seems like LeBlanc hasn't had experience with addiction in the past, given her constant hope that Trina will recover.  It took her a long time to give up hope.  On the one hand, this could be admired.  On the other, this is the cycle of addiction.  Given that Trina had this scarring background and clear intimacy issues, I mostly felt like LeBlanc exploited her.  She reported a great story, but spending ten years with her and putting herself in the position of a friend really threw me into a moral dilemma.  I don't blame LeBlanc for abandoning Trina, but I don't think she should have put herself in a position where her detachment turned out to be synonymous with abandonment.

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