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Contributor Archives: Adam Hochschild

“Why’s this so good?” No. 61: John McPhee and the archdruid

The New Journalism of the 1960s and 1970s – by Tom Wolfe, Hunter Thompson, and others – made the biggest collective splash in recent American nonfiction, and certainly enlarged our idea of what the genre could do. The best of it may endure, but, 50 or 100 years from now, will people still be enthralled by Thompson’s psychedelic ramblings or the early Wolfe’s strings of italics and exclamation marks? More lasting, I think, as a grand pointillist mural of our time and place as expressed in the lives of an encyclopedic range of people, will be the work of John McPhee.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, part 4: plot

[This last installment in a four-part series on writing historical narratives focuses on the importance of plot in nonfiction storytelling. The series is based on a lecture given by Adam Hochschild at Vanderbilt University in February 2011. Part 1 is a call to bridge the divide between academic writing and narratives intended for the general public. [...]

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, part 3: character

[This third installment in a four-part series on writing historical narratives focuses on the importance of characters. The series is based on a lecture given by Adam Hochschild at Vanderbilt University in February 2011. Prior installments have included a look at the value of setting and scenes in nonfiction storytelling and a call to bridge the divide [...]

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, part 2: setting

[This second installment in a four-part series on writing historical narratives focuses on the importance of setting and scenes in nonfiction storytelling. The series is based on a lecture given by Adam Hochschild at Vanderbilt University in February 2011. To start at the beginning, read part 1, a call to bridge the divide between academic writing and [...]

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, part 1

[This four-part series on storytelling and historical narratives is based on a talk given at Vanderbilt University in February 2011.] Half a century ago, the novelist and physicist C.P. Snow wrote about how these days we live in two cultures, where scientists and humanists seem to have lost the ability to talk to each other. [...]

First Person Singular: It’s not just about you

Getting stuck next to a compulsive talker is one of the worst things that can happen at a dinner party or on a long bus ride. Even worse: the self-centered compulsive talker. What makes this experience so awful? The person’s desire to tell his or her story, without thinking about which aspects might be interesting [...]