Global Literary Journalism
Exploring the Journalistic Imagination, Volume 2
Chapters explore literary journalism not only in the United Kingdom, the United States and India – but also in countries not covered in the first volume such as Australia, France, Brazil and Portugal, while its central themes help lead the study of literary journalism into previously unchartered territory. More focus is placed on the origins of literary journalism, with chapters exploring the previously ignored journalism of writers such as Myles na gCopaleen, Marguerite Duras, Mohatma Gandhi, Leigh Hunt, D. H. Lawrence, Mary McCarthy and Evelyn Waugh.
Critical overviews of African American literary journalism in the 1950s and of literary journalism in Brazil from 1870 to the present day are also provided, and a section asks whether there is a specific women’s voice in literary journalism.
Table Of Contents
- About the author(s)/editor(s)
- About the book
- This eBook can be cited
- The Story So Far
- Literary Journalism and The Improvisatory Impulse
- New Frontiers to The Journalistic Imagination
- Literary Journalism – Neglected by the Academy and Public
- “A Monument to Irish Newspaper Culture”
- Literary Journalism – African Americans Show the Way
- Further Explorations into the Historical Roots of Literary Journalism
- History under the Literary Journalists’ Microscope
- Literary Journalism and the US Debacle in Iraq
- Is There a Distinct Women’s Voice in Literary Journalism?
- Further Explorations in the Journalistic Imagination
- Tribute to Professor John Tulloch
- Section 1. Digging into the Historical Roots of Literary Journalism
- 1. Reasons to Be Cheerful: Leigh Hunt and His Versatile, Trenchant, Observant, Empathetic, Witty Journalism
- Of Margins, Centres and Axes
- The Novelty of Impartiality
- Letting Loose the Examiner
- Imprisoning the Examiner
- Prison Literary Journalism
- His Companionable Style of Writing
- Leigh Hunt in 1832
- Postscript: Dickens, Skimpole, Hunt
- 2. Gandhi as Literary Journalist in Hind Swaraj
- Newspaper Contexts
- Historical Moment
- Transformation of the Individual
- Use of Literary Devices
- 3. Never Myles from the News: The “Meta-Journalism” of Myles na gCopaleen
- The Man Behind the Mask
- An Cruiskeen Lawn
- In the Clutches of the “Sea-Cat”
- Journalism and Art
- The Drink or the Column
- 4. The Real “Scoop”: Waugh in Abyssinia
- They Were Still Dancing
- Not for Publication
- Alice in Wonderland Fortnight
- When the Going Was Good
- Deedes of Derring-Do
- What’s the Latin for Scoop?
- Boot on the Other Foot
- Conclusions: What’s in a Name?
- 5. African American Literary Journalism in the 1950s
- Historical Background
- Conventional Black Journalism and Literary Journalism
- Writers of–and Outlets for–Literary Journalism
- Morrison’s and Hurston’s Human-Interest Stories
- Clayton and Childress: Going Places Ignored by the Mainstream
- Poston and Baldwin: Affirmations of Black Dignity
- Hicks’s Call for Action
- 6. A Critical Overview of Brazilian Literary Journalism: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow
- Early Brazilian Literary Journalism, The First Wave and Long Interlude
- Academic Renaissance
- The Second Wave: The Rising Voice of Women
- Section 2. History as Seen by Literary Journalists
- 7. Literary Journalism on War and Imperialism: The British Annexation of Egypt Viewed by Portuguese Eça de Queirós
- From Our Press Correspondent in Britain
- Queirós, The Literary Journalist
- Resurrecting a Casus Belli
- After All Was Said and Done
- 8. “Certain Americans and an Englishman”: D. H. Lawrence and the American Indians
- “Certain Americans and an Englishman”
- The Return to the Native
- “Indians and Entertainment”
- “The Hopi Snake Dance”
- An Englishman Abroad
- Conclusions: Red Fox and Angry Winter
- 9. Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Beyond the Court Jester?
- Powers of Description
- The Mocking Tone
- Mockery and the Limits of Acceptable Debate
- The Investigative Edge
- The Problematic Use of Dialogue and Interviews
- The Imagining of the Inner Voice
- Power of the Symbolic
- Pitfalls of the Story
- Behind the Stylistics: Hiding the Horror
- Section 3. Literary Journalism: Is There a Specific Woman’s Voice?
- 10. Duras, Definitely Duras: Tradition and Innovation in the Literary Journalism of Marguerite D.
- The Isolation of a Literary Journalist
- The Archaeology of Literary Journalism
- Marguerite Duras the Journalist
- Attraction for the World of “Shadows”
- “Chronicle of the Summer”
- Violent Critique of Objectivity
- A Feminine Writing Style?
- Conclusions: Towards a “New Journalism”
- 11. Eliane Brum: New Star in Brazil’s Literary Journalism Firmament
- Her Career
- Her Stories
- “I am the Enemy”
- “The Woman Who Nurtured”
- “A Family in Lula’s Time”
- Conclusion: Back to the Roots
- 12. “Greenwich Village at Night” and Mary McCarthy’s Immersion Journalism
- McCarthy as Proto-Literary Journalist
- Dorothy Schiff’s New York Post
- Schiff’s Editor, James Wechsler
- Wechsler Hires McCarthy
- Fact and Fiction in McCarthy’s Work
- Unvarnished Truth
- Life Among the Natives
- Examples of McCarthy’s Style
- Reactions to the Series
- Mccarthy and the New Journalism
- Section 4. Further Explorations in the Journalistic Imagination: The Power of the Story
- 13. Journalism, Imagination and the Art of Fact: The Work of Geoffrey Moorhouse
- Introduction: I am a North-Country Bumpkin
- Intros and Other Journalistic Building Blocks
- The Problem of Genre
- Place: Calcutta
- Fear: The Fearful Void
- Faith: Sun Dancing
- Conclusion: Identity
- 14. More than “A Little Pot-Boiling”: The Personal Journalism of R. K. Narayan
- A Long Engagement and A “Proper Detachment”
- Critical Neglect
- Collecting Narayan’s Journalism
- Two Different Audiences
- The Short and The Long of it
- Is Naipaul Right?
- Essays in the Longer Form
- Conclusions: Fiction, Fact, and The Porous Line
- 15. New Journalism in Portuguese: From 19th-Century Literary Journalists to the Present Day
- Literary Journalism in Portuguese
- First Voyage: Across the African Continent. Early Days of Portuguese-Speaking Journalism
- Literary Journalism Alive and Well in Brazil!
- Truth, Literature and Journalism: The Problematics
- Contemporary Stars—and Further Questions about Literary Journalism Styles
- 16. Magic Realism with Bullets: Charles Bowden and Ciudad Juárez
- Feeling Reality
- Phantasmagorical Prose
- Hallucinatory Nonfiction/Police-Blotter Fiction
- Similarities in Style
- Q & A with Charles Bowden
- Conclusion: Bowden’s Unflinching Gaze
- 17. Indian Literary Journalism in the Age of Mobile Phones
- Basharat Peer—An Empathetic Imagination
- Raghu Karnad—Careful Scene-by-Scene Construction
- Samanth Subramanian—The Art of Writing Profiles
- Aman Sethi—Cultivating A “Male” Voice
- Dilip D’Souza—Mastery over the Craft
- 18. “Long-Form Journalism Is Absolutely Not Dead. What Is Dead Is Bad Long-Form”
- Long-Form Responds to the Online Challenge
- “Eat Your Oatmeal!” Won’t Do
- Strong Sense of Storytelling Crucial
- Journalism’s Big Narrative Dig
- Commitment and the Vulnerable “I”
- Reaching out for New ways to Tell Complex Stories
- The E-book in the E-Future?
- Series Index
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Literary Journalism as a Disputed Terrain – Still
THE STORY SO FAR
One of the most exciting features of the current academic debate over literary journalism is its international reach. The early years of literary journalism scholarship were dominated by American and British academics: such as Thomas B. Connery (1992), John Hartsock (2000), Norman Sims and Mark Kramer (1984 and 1995), Kevin Kerrane and Ben Yagoda (1997), Jeremy Treglown and Bridget Bennett (1998) and Kate Campbell (2004). But then the focus broadened. Our first volume travelled across a wide range of countries and regions: including Canada, Cape Verde, Finland, India, Ireland, Latin America, Norway, Sweden, the Middle East as well as Britain and the United States. It followed on soon after the publication of a major collection of essays, edited by John S. Bak and Bill Reynolds (2011) which took in countries as diverse as Australia, Brazil, China, Finland, Holland, New Zealand, Portugal, Russia, Slovenia and Spain.
Rupert Hildyard, one of the contributors to the first volume of Global Literary Journalism: Exploring the Journalistic Imagination, rightly warned (2012: 144) that the “global tag … often conceals Anglo-American interests and hegemony.” This new volume, indeed, has its fair share of chapters on US and UK writers. But this time our gaze has spread still further afield – to Australia, Brazil, France, India, Ireland and Portugal. Moreover, we have attempted to extend the debate into new fields: a section looks into the historical roots of literary journalism; another section explores the ways in which literary journalists have covered important historical events and personalities.
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In her keynote address to the annual conference of the International Association for Literary Journalism Studies, in Toronto, in May 2012, Nancy L. Roberts, of the University at Albany, of the State University of New York, focused on the failure of the academy to highlight sufficiently the work of women writers (2012: 83). As John Tulloch summed up her thesis so colourfully in his response to the keynote (2012: 96):
Apart from the la-di-da, high status, sacred grove connotations of “literary” and its fuzzy imprecision is the suspicion that the naming of the field may have something to do with conferring some “class” on the macho bohemian rogues (journalistic myth) or commercially driven male drudges (academic myth) who inhabit it. In other words a PR scam to make the long-form journalism we love a respectable academic subject of study. Discuss.
Significantly, this new volume takes up Roberts’ challenge (and John Tulloch’s exhortation to “discuss”), incorporating a section based around the question: is there a specific women’s voice in literary journalism. Roberta Maguire’s chapter on African-American literary journalism also takes in the work of women writers such as Zora Neale Hurston and Alice Childress while Susie Eisenhuth’s critical overview of longform journalism in Australia includes the work of Chloe Hooper, Marian Wilkinson, Helen Garner and Anna Krien.
LITERARY JOURNALISM AND THE IMPROVISATORY IMPULSE
The first volume of Global Literary Journalists: Exploring the Journalistic Imagination described literary journalism as a “disputed terrain.” This new volume in no way serves to resolve any of the major problematics of the genre. The various associated terms – literary non-fiction, creative non-fiction, narrative non-fiction, the literature of fact, journalistic non-fiction, even lyrics in prose – still compete for attention. Yet does not the extraordinary vitality of literary journalism as both practice and scholarship emerge from its hybrid status: while it embodies many of the uncertainties and contradictions of the modern writer’s predicament, is it not also able to thrive in the spaces between “journalism” and “literature” – whatever they may be?
Stuart Allan has spoken of journalists as “improvisatory performers and stylists” (2013: 145). Journalism has, indeed, over the centuries been extremely versatile in drawing on an eclectic range of genres, writing styles and production techniques. Martin Conboy (2004: 23) has written of the “generic experimentation” at the birth of printed news media in the seventeenth century – with the emergence of corantos, relations, newes, posts, gazettes, proceedings, accounts, passages and diurnals – and this improvisatory impulse, it could be argued, has continued to this day. Is it then useful to see literary journalism as just one of a number of innovative approaches (and products of the journalistic imagination) adopted by reporters over the centuries?
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NEW FRONTIERS TO THE JOURNALISTIC IMAGINATION
In her keynote, Roberts (op cit: 81-93) also argued passionately that literary journalism as an academic discipline needed to explore a much wider range of non-elite sources such as women’s magazines, household journals and newspapers, letters, memoirs and diaries; epistolary journalism; religious tracts, travel writing and social movement, muckraking and African-American journals.
Certainly at the heart of the continuing debate over literary journalism (so usefully stoked by Roberts’ combative polemic) there remains a number of crucial issues – all the more complex today with the emergence of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, data journalism, crowdsourcing and so on. For instance, what constitutes journalism? And how do we define the dominant and alternative public spheres (and their global manifestations) in which journalism is most usefully seen as falling. In their various ways, each of the chapters here throws a useful light on to those fascinating subject areas. As John Tulloch may well have said: “Let’s continue the discussion – and enjoy.”
LITERARY JOURNALISM – NEGLECTED BY THE ACADEMY AND PUBLIC
One of the main functions of the recent literary journalism debate in the academy has been to rescue the journalistic work of writers more often associated with their novels, plays or poetry. Complex factors (historical, cultural, ideological and political) lie behind journalism’s low literary and academic status – and the marginalization of the journalistic imagination. Yet within the intellectual economy of modern societies, authors, editors, publishers, campaigners and academics are found regularly changing roles. Indeed, for many men and women of letters since the eighteenth century, the continuous flow of their writing may have incorporated – as well as their journalism – books, reviews, polemics, sociological research, poetry. Journalism, in short, has to be seen, not as a marginal literary pursuit but as a central cultural field which writers exploit for a variety of reasons and where, crucially, they self-consciously construct their public identities (Keeble and Wheeler 2007: 2-3).
Yet is there not also an exciting “democratic” extension of this debate? For, alongside rescuing the journalistic work of prominent writers from the condescension of the academy, can not serious academic attention now be given to identifying the literary aspects of all journalism?
We begin with a literary figure whose journalistic work has certainly been under-valued and under-researched: James Henry Leigh Hunt (1784-1859). ← 3 | 4 → John Drew goes so far as to argue that Hunt had “one of the most substantial, significant, varied and visible journalistic careers of the nineteenth century.” He continues:
While discrete and often partial assessments have been offered of his work as a poet, as an occasional essayist, as the friend and mentor of other poets and critics, or of his role as a cause célèbre imprisoned by a corrupt regime, these need to be subsumed into the larger project of understanding him above all as a literary journalist and one of the founding (if least patriarchal) fathers of the form.
Drew backs up this assertion by referring to the extraordinary “editorial detachment and serenity” of Hunt’s “jailhouse journalism.” Thrown into Surrey Jail following an attack on the Prince Regent, Hunt used his time in 1814 to good effect journalistically. As Drew comments: “Being cast into the gutter allows Hunt to look at the stars, and to offer a kind of long-view journalism freed from the obligation to continually re-establish minute connections with the march of events, but which nevertheless moves easily with them.”
Moreover, in examining Hunt’s varied journalism on the Examiner, Reflector and Indicator, Drew argues that they constituted “crucial experiments with literary journalism.” And he concludes by exploring a fascinating area so far largely ignored by the academy: namely Hunt’s influence on Charles Dickens, the journalist:
Almost all of the things for which Dickens the journalist is justly celebrated – his adoption of the role of flâneur in his urban reportage; his fearlessness in attacking humbug and jobbery in national life; his overflowing sympathy with the down-at-heel and dispossessed; his endless facility of comic invention; his “philosophy” of charity and good humor – have antecedents in Hunt’s larger and more varied output. Nothing in Dickens’s work is comparable to Hunt’s range as a political commentator or his abilities as a literary critic.
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869-1948) is well-known as the pacifist leader of the Indian nationalist movement. Hardly known is the fact that Gandhi realized the extraordinary potential of journalism to promote his ideas – and educate the public – about the importance of civil disobedience. The newspapers he edited over many years and in a range of languages included Indian Opinion while he was in South Africa (1893-1915) and Harijan (in Gujarati, Hindi and English), Young India (in English) and Navajivan (a Gujarati and Hindi monthly) on his return to India.
Here, Jane Chapman focuses on Gandhi’s Hind Swaraj (or Indian Home Rule) of 1909 – composed in just nine days whilst Gandhi travelled from London to South Africa on the SS Kildonan Castle – as an example of literary journalism. Just as in most literary works of fiction, the characters change in the course of the story, Chapman argues that Gandhi aimed for personal change by others who would follow him through the inspiration that his ideas in the text provided. She continues: “In Hind Swaraj, Gandhi’s literary journalism acted as the glue to bind together ← 4 | 5 → the aesthetical elements of influence from Tolstoy, Ruskin and other writers such as Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862).” The primary literary device in the text is a dialogue between two people.
This allows not merely for the presentation of binaries such as modernism versus a-modernism, and at a number of different levels also for conversation to act as a vehicle for rhetorical persuasion and for the elaboration of ideas. Dialogue between the two characters is a literary form that envisages open-ended debate rather than dogmatism, even when issues discussed are controversial or the argument seems conclusive.
Chapman concludes that Hind Swaraj is significant as literary journalism because it encompasses a holistic form of philosophical activism characterized by the rhetoric of politics, religion and the psyche. “Very few classic texts aim for such a broad range of appeal.”
“A MONUMENT TO IRISH NEWSPAPER CULTURE”
Next Ian Kilroy examines the work of author, satirist, critic, civil servant and cynic, Brian O’Nolan (1911-1966) who wrote under a range of nom de plumes throughout his career: at times he was the novelist Flann O’Brien, at others the cult Irish journalist Myles na gCopaleen (Irish for “Myles of the Little Ponies”). Here Kilroy examines his Cruskeen Lawn slot in the Irish Times which ran regularly from 1940 until his death in 1966. According to Kilroy, the column amounted to “one of the funniest and longest-running columns in Irish journalism” which “stands as a monument in Irish newspaper culture.”
He traces some of its origins in the work of Dean Swift (1667-1745) who, through works such as A Tale of the Tub (1704) and A Modest Proposal (1729), intervened in the public sphere to satirize the ills in society while adopting the voice of the concerned, civic-minded citizen. In some respects An Cruiskeen Lawn might seem to sit uneasily as journalism. It is hardly dealing with hard, objective facts. Rather, according to Kilroy, it revels in unlikely narratives and characterization; inconsistency and improbability. It is playfully “making things up,” refracting the real through a distorting prism for purposes of pastiche and parody, in order to achieve the distorted face of a comic mask. And Kilroy is able to conclude:
While the allegiance of journalism has, by and large, stuck with its roots in aesthetic realism, O’Nolan is that rare thing, a literary journalist who moves into the magical realistic, fantastic and surrealistic modes of literature. The reason that this remains journalism is because this aesthetic and formal innovation is done while continuing to reflect critically on contemporary events. It is written for a mass, newspaper audience and there is still an engagement with the wider society, even if, admittedly, that audience was limited to a specialist readership in a minority newspaper.
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Evelyn Waugh (1903-1966), author of novels such as Handful of Dust (1934) and Brideshead Revisited (1945), is widely regarded as one of the greatest prose stylists of the twentieth century. He was also a journalist of some note. Here Nick Nuttall examines his literary journalism following two trips to Abyssinia – first in 1930 when he reported the coronation of Haile Selassie for the Graphic and then in 1935 as a war correspondent for the Daily Mail. After each trip he produced a book of travel writing and reportage – Remote People following the first visit and Waugh in Abyssinia after the second. Each of these was followed in turn by a novel based on his experiences – Black Mischief after the first visit and Scoop after the second.
Nuttall writes: “Received wisdom describes Remote People as travel writing and to the extent that it is a story of foreign climes this is true. Yet its origins are clearly journalistic as are its successes and failures.” Waugh is very good, for example, at delineating character through acerbic and unexpected juxtapositions. Moreover, the similarities between Waugh in Abyssinia and Scoop are at times striking. Yet the former, according to Nuttall, despite being reportage, loses little in satirical edge and farcical momentum to the latter. The publishing industry certainly finds it difficult to categorize these two texts: travel, biography, autobiography, memoir are some of the descriptive terms on the back of the Penguin editions. Nuttall concludes:
So here it is that the portmanteau literary journalism comes into its own. Both books are journalism as regards their origins and destinations. Their author was fulfilling a journalistic function … At the same time both books are literary to the extent that they use a variety of “fiction” devices such as plot and characterization as well as employing that indefinable novelistic “style” to propel the story forward. And they remain, however strange or incredible, grounded in the real world of personal experience.
LITERARY JOURNALISM – AFRICAN AMERICANS SHOW THE WAY
In a pioneering piece of research, Roberta Maguire argues that the literary journalism produced by African American writers during the 1950s was startling both in terms of amount and range. She begins by placing her study in a historical context – suggesting that the US black community was neither unaware of nor unaffected by the anti-communist climate that took hold during the 1950s: many of its political leaders, artists, and writers, including journalists, were accused of being un-American – traitorous – for harboring socialist, and specifically communist, sympathies. Maguire continues:
As the 1950s began, the black community had been enduring over half a century of legalized segregation, thanks to the Supreme Court’s 1896 decision in Plessy v. Ferguson. And just as the black press had played an instrumental role in the nineteenth century’s abolitionist movement leading to the end of slavery, it was in the vanguard agitating to outlaw segregation and promoting civil rights during the twentieth century.
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Most of the literary journalism of the decade Maguire uncovers was produced by writers who identified first as professional journalists and were trailblazers in the white daily press: Ted Poston, Carl T. Rowan, and James N. Rhea. Other professional journalists who produced literary journalism wrote primarily – and, in a couple of cases, exclusively – for the black media, at least during the 1950s. They included two with especially wide-ranging interests: Allan Morrison and Dan Burley. A. S. Young and Vincent Tubbs were among the professional journalists writing primarily for black publications during the decade as pioneering publicists in Hollywood. And Clotye Murdock’s literary journalism during the1950s included a feature exploring the effects on a Rhode Island family of going back and forth between passing as white and identifying as black. Other black literary journalists Maguire examines include Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston. Both now considered central to the African American literary tradition, each also wrote for black newspapers during the 1950s.
Maguire moves on to examine in depth the literary journalistic elements in a number of pieces such as Allan Morrison’s “Test Tube Babies” published in the July 1950 issue of Ebony and Zora Neale Hurston’s multi-part series on Ruby McCollum – her life and the trial in Live Oak, Florida, which began in the Pittsburgh Courier in October 1952 and concluded in June 1953. In Edward T. Clayton’s “The Strange Disappearance of Lloyd Gaines,” appearing in the May 1951 issue of Ebony, and one of Alice Childress’s “Conversations from Life” columns, Maguire identifies literary journalistic techniques applied to stories that were either treated perfunctorily or ignored entirely by the mainstream press but that spoke to the daily lives of African Americans. And in the work of Ted Poston and James Baldwin, Maguire sees writers assuming “the role of ambassador, never assuming a reader’s familiarity with black culture, and overall employ a measured, even congenial, tone, with little risk of alienating.” She concludes that these writers employed literary techniques to “capture the complexity, urgency, and humanity of the stories they had to tell.”
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- origins women¿s voice unchartered territory
- New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2014. 306 pp.