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'Notes from Underground: Gay Talese's Office'

October 5, 2012 - Ben Klein
In this video from the New Yorker, legendary writer Gay Talese gives a tour of his underground office.

"One wall is lined with boxes covered in the elaborate collages he makes as part of his research and writing process. Another nook in the bunker houses his many file cabinets; since 1945, Talese has kept a file for every year of his life. He has records of each day—where he was, what he saw, who he spoke to," the New Yorker said.

An interview with the Paris Review provides a little background to what is going on with all those boxes in his office.

"Few writers research as thoroughly or ardently as Talese, who gives nine or ten years of his life to a book. He has records of every day—where he was, who he saw, and how he felt."

Much of his work is available here, including the most recent profile of New York Yankees Manager Joe Girardi and the famous 1966 "Silent Season of Hero" Esquire piece about Joe DiMaggio are available for free.

In the video, Talese shows his method of note taking - pieces of shirt board that he cuts to fit the shape of his suit pocket.

From the Paris Review:

INTERVIEWER

Do you use notebooks when you are reporting?

TALESE

I don't use notebooks. I use shirt boards.

INTERVIEWER

You mean the cardboard from dry-cleaned shirts?

TALESE

Exactly. I cut the shirt board into four parts and I cut the corners into round edges, so that they can fit in my pocket. I also use full shirt boards when I'm writing my outlines. I've been doing this since the fifties.

INTERVIEWER

So all day long you're writing your observations on shirt boards?

TALESE

Yes, and at night I type out my notes. It is a kind of journal. But not only my notes—also my observations.

 
 

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