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Robert Boynton

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More than 30 years ago Tom Wolfe and a pride of fellow literary lions in the making sparked a revolution in nonfiction writing by tossing out old rules about objectivity, authorship, fact, and fiction. Now, in The New New Journalism: Conversations on Craft With America's Best Nonfiction Writers, Robert Boynton, head of the magazine journalism program at NYU, makes the case that a contemporary group of journalists is at the forefront of an equally important revolution in long-form narrative reporting. The 18 writers he profiles--from mass-market star Jon Krakauer to lesser-known legends like Ted Conover and William Finnegan--are a motley crew, yoked together less by the literary pyrotechnics of their new-journalist predecessors than by a shared commitment to intricate narrative detail and the willingness to spend a really, really long time on a story. (Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, one of only three women included, spent ten years reporting Random Family, her 2002 saga of life in the South Bronx.) Boynton's interviews focus heavily on the craft of writing, discussing how each person develops an idea, conducts interviews, structures a story, and copes with the isolation a long-term project invariably entails. For nonfiction geeks, this is riveting stuff: Did you know Susan Orlean doesn't use a tape recorder? Or that William Langewiesche used colored pens to code his miles of notes for American Ground? For the casual reader the collection's appeal may be more elusive, but for anyone who believes that a singular, richly detailed story can cast light on larger truths, it offers some intriguing peeks behind the curtain. Tue 4/5, 7 PM, on a panel with Leon Dash and Alex Kotlowitz, University of Chicago, International House, 1414 E. 59th, 773-752-4381.

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