Writer’s Desk: Quality First, Money Second

Gay Talese, 2006 (David Shankbone)

Gay Talese is a great reporter. There are not many of those. He was also a great storyteller—which is not an art that even all great reporters can ever master.

So in the middle of a delightful Men’s Journal interview (sample quote: on how he handles aging? “I go out every goddamn night of the week. Every night. And I order a martini every goddamn night of the week”) Talese explains what he learned from his father about making money as a writer:

I’m the only son of a very prideful tailor. He didn’t make a lot of money, but boy, he took pride in the suits he made. He once told me, “Son, when you look for a job, never ask what it pays.” Instead, he said, master the job, because if you become really good at what you do, the money will come. Conventional wisdom will tell you differently: Hustle, get an agent, ask for a lot, and settle for less. I never did that. And although I wasn’t a tailor, I wrote like one. I cared about every stitch and every button, and I wanted my work to hold up, fit well, and to last. Good work is never easily done…

Be good first, and the money will follow.

Usually.

Screening Room: ‘Voyeur’

Back in 1981, Gay Talese made a splash with Thy Neighbor’s Wife, a controversial study of America’s sexual proclivities. He received an interesting letter not long after publication from a guy in Colorado with all sorts of stories about spying on people at his motel.

The new documentary Voyeur follows what happened next, as Talese spent years trying to turn that man’s story into yet another splashy book. Voyeur premiered at the New York Film Festival and will be released in theaters and on Netflix later in the year. Here’s my review.