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Tag Archives: Joan Didion

The sense of an ending: Ben Yagoda on A.J. Liebling, Katherine Boo, Sonia Nazario, John Jeremiah Sullivan, David Foster Wallace, Joseph Mitchell and more

Whether you spell them “ledes” or “leads,” opening lines get a lot of attention. And why wouldn’t they? Sitting at the keyboard, with all the tedious and sometimes annoying reporting done, a writer is spoiled for choice, a world of possibilities at his or her disposal. To be sure, that seemingly limitless choice can be [...]

In praise of the sentence

The first chapter of How to Write a Sentence (and How to Read One), by Stanley Fish, begins with this paragraph: In her book The Writing Life (1989), Annie Dillard tells the story of a fellow writer who was asked by a student, “Do you think I could be a writer?” “ ‘Well,’ the writer [...]

The Music of Narrative: Songs from great literary journalism

A story without sound lies too dead on the page. Imagine “Mrs. Kelly’s Monster,” by Jon Franklin, without the pop … pop … pop of the operating-room sensors. Or Tom Wolfe’s “The Girl of the Year” — the 1964 New York magazine classic on “it” girl Jane Holzer — without the manic rhythms: She is gorgeous [...]

“Why’s this so good?” – The badass women edition

From the “Why’s this so good?” archives, a handful of great reads about, or by, brilliant, brave, inspiring women, featuring Joan Didion, Rita Dove, Calvin Trillin, Julia Barton, Edna Buchanan, Ben Yagoda, Walt Harrington and Jennifer B. McDonald: In No. 47, The New Yorker‘s Calvin Trillin hangs out with Edna Buchanan, who, in the 1980s, [...]

Meet the Storytellers: The Nieman Class of 2014

Every fellow who comes through Lippmann House is a storyteller of a sort, whether with words or visuals or data or sound. The Class of 2014 arrived from across journalistic disciplines, and from a wide range of backgrounds*, as you’ll see in this academic year’s meet-the-fellows post. As the current Niemans settle in to the [...]

Top 10 Top 10 Lists — storytelling edition

Because why not a list of lists? Ten* worth the storyteller’s time: 1) “130 years of must-read stories for digital journalists: five lessons from 1851-1981,” by Abraham Hyatt, editor of the data-driven investigative project Oakland Police Beat. His top three (we agree, so much, with Ben Hecht’s “The Pig”): 1: You can report on technology [...]

“Why’s this so good?” No. 82: Rebecca Solnit and “Detroit Arcadia”

If you’ve been following the recent reports out of Detroit, you know conditions there are dire. This is hardly new. For decades the dominant narrative about the city has been one of failure: economic collapse, physical devastation, racism and violence propelling a once robust metropolis down a dismal path. For a taste of the common [...]

Nieman Lab summer reading + Barry Hannah + the brain and dramatic arc + a Japanese pitching sensation + a new board

Pinned this week for your storytelling pleasure: The Recommended board has been especially busy: • Our sister pub Nieman Lab has been engaging in a little summer reading from our Nieman Foundation library, a treasure trove that spans our 75-year history as the world’s oldest and best-known study program for journalists. Ours is “one of [...]

Inside 40 Towns: literary journalism, Dartmouth students and a professor who wanted more

If you’ve been following 40 Towns, the new literary journalism magazine produced by Jeff Sharlet’s creative nonfiction students at Dartmouth, you’ve seen longform stories about ex-cons, a roadside motel, a bead shop, a diner, a homeless woman named Tecumseh, and more — stories that get inside the lives of people of the Upper Valley. Sharlet’s [...]

“Why’s this so good?” No. 79: Joan Didion, Hemingway, and mathematically musical writing

Joan Didion finds herself counting syllables. If this is part of her brilliance, and it is, it’s largely because of who she is as an observer; meticulous but detached, intimate yet removed. These paradoxes are how she draws you in. The penchant for counting reveals what may seem like another paradox, but is actually the [...]