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tv   Terry Mc Donell Discusses The Accidental Life  CSPAN  February 27, 2017 7:00am-7:55am EST

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please raise your hands, and an usher will bring a microphone to you. terry mcdonnell is with us today cour >> terry mcdonnell as it does today. bill and nina weill.has wo terry mc donnell has won numerous awards for his editorial work at various magazines and websites. he also is a novelist and poet ms rep and produced for film and in 2012, he was inducted into the american society of magazine editors hall of fame. he is president of the board, of the paris review foundation and serves on the board of over
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columbia journalism review. the wave runner at "the new york times" says he writes winningly about his regrets and evokes the magazine world payday of lavishv offices, drink in the evening and hedonism.nism. mcdonnell, "the accidental life" is the saddest fact of the team from the. he help when an amazon i spoke alloys and 2610. please give a warm stefania old-school welcome to terry mcdonell. [applause] >> thank you. this is my first boat.
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i can't imagine a better place to be right now in this beautiful church in this fine, fine city. my book is about writers and their work and working with them. it is an editor's notes on writing and writers in the subhead. when i am honest about this book, and i say that out of a a kind of vanity, i want to show myself as a writer. i thought the best way to dote t that with the too bright about the great writers that i edited and what i learned editing them. not just about writing, but thet writing life. dating site couch and salts attacked about being a fighter pilot, but he loves play touch the wall and he kept meticulous records of these meaningless the all games, and these meaningless
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pickup games, but they became so not our fun of course and how he and peter mathieson would dive into the freezing serve on the first day of november every year and have i.c.e. martinis on the each with their lives. i wrote about how jim harrison used to hang up on me when we were working on the phone over editing this i had made. hang up relentlessly on me. but how mostly we talked about what he was going to make for dinner where he would write about the last 12 course meal he had with mario vitali. he was a great admirer of his beard i read about working with p.j. o'rourke, which was like a window for anthropology field notes. this reporting was so intricate. richard price would rip like
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many cruise when he was pitching movies or tv shows like we sometimes set together. but in the end, it was all practice for his novels. tom huang used to call it having a long reach, which in his case may be nominated for a national book award in fiction the same year that he won the team roping at the small rodeo in montana. so the book is full of stories like that. there are also the interstitial chapters that are about the tricks of editing. editing is about ideas of course, but it's mechanical as well and you have to get under the hood so to speak if you are making magazine says these to say or websites or swimsuit issues as i did for 10 years.hoe
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and the things that you learn in those exercises, like if you can rewrite headlines on deadline, if you can get good at that, it is a kick like this looney tunes characters who produced a stick of dynamite from behind their back. nothing more fun than that. one tool that i use in the book as i left at the top of each chapter enough to word count so you know how many words are in that chapter. i did this because when i was an editor i always wanted to know how much it is going to read. o this allowed me to judge the pacing of the peace or the lack of peace and that helped me evaluate how the piece i am told by people who read the book that i liked it, and but i would add right now that in the spirit of transparency, i'm going to speak for probably
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another 22 minutes. [laughter] back to the writers. they found out that i edited this way. it spooked them a little. they were all very tuned to length, even if they were being paid by the word, which some of them of courseware. and all the magazines that i edited, director tenet then. "rolling stone," "esquire," outside newspeak at all, feature stories were assigned at a verys specific links coming usually 4000 words. almost every writer would come in over 5000 words and say they were aware. a few others would come in under three and say the same thing. it was always mysterious to me why being direct it by the number of words they were
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finding it difficult. in the end i'm sure it had more to do with alchemy than with a lack of discipline. you remember that before microsoft word county your words if you are a writer could be very refreshing. it is like stopping to make a cup of tea or smoke a cigarette. now, doing the word count can have a slot machine kick to it if you have the discipline, not to do that every time you can save. this is meaningless to me because i work in google talk spirit they think you will knowb what i'm talking about there. the point though is none of this matters if the piece is good. and that is determined by voice and narrative, never failing. go in august by ambitious and more fun. this was true of lengthy pieces
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before they became creative nonfiction or journalism and it is true now that we finally debunked the web notion that will read anything longer than new skype so. but i also know that the best pieces seem to find their own links to match the alchemy. i wrote about that alchemy for many, many different aim rules in this book. for example, writing for many. the media business in general and specifically. more specifically what is happening to the media business from the crest of the nature analysts and get this is like the 70s. writers like norman mailer and tom wolf, all three of them laid edited briefly, to the recent digital innovations like media
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lab at m.i.t. which now offers a class in journalism as an engineering problem which is brilliant.t. but anyway, that is the timeline.t that timeline is the arc of my career in the arc of the book, too. but at its heart, this book is really about writers who becameb it's about that, too. i'm speaking here about pakistan and sulzer and harrison and david carr and most especially hunter thompson and george clinton who shared an unlikely "-begin-double-quote friendship. i want to tell you about that. in the beginning, i would think that to edit them well i had to be somehow it's interesting to them if they were to me. as if.
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but i recognize that is how hunter and george both work. whether it's but a hells angelsg commit detroit lions or politicians or circus midgets or whoever they were writing about. george of course invited everyone to his party's beard hunter and the other hand wrotee careful holy areas letters to his biggest subjects. mohammed told the summit will claim. very obvious. but then i also found it just paid hunter more money made the more interesting to him. with george -- with george, it had more to do with being a good audience. i remember once it was dusk and jordan and i were watching a wrench road in eastern new mexico. according to george, we weremexo hurting. we were on the track of the
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illicit or wind howl who lives in prairie dog coals. we were going about this in the deeply syllabi straight that allows you to bring your glass of wine or whatever on your expedition. in george's case it was always do worse with a little water. we had seen the owls, but he had pointed out a bat or two for the second string from the ground, pulled his white t-shirt over his head, phone it in the air. he shouted excluding the name of the bats as the shared peeking perhaps 20 feet per half a dozen, maybe 20 bats.or 20 ba they tracked it to the ground like the dive bombers they are, squeaking their bat squeaks. a second road doubled the number of bad and so on until i lost
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count and was almost gone. the trip george explained pulling the t-shirt over his head was to give these that something that but come floating up under solaris. food. like the gargantuan moth he said taking a set. it was predictable of george to pull something like that expertise out of no where because of course it wasn't out of nowhere at all. when george was 14, he spent his summer hunting bats inise out california, sierra,, nevada and donating the specimens tends to. museums. this was a kind of summer job that you had if you had george clinton. listening to his stories, bites as a teenage bat hunter was like listening to the adventures of a
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young prince. but it wasn't his privilege distract you. it was his curiosity always. georgia's questions were like trampolines. the technology he admired it away. they bounce you hire to the next question. this was particularly true when he was talking about writers and writing. did you know that the great camus said old for the football club he asked me once we were walking past an algerian restaurant near 72nd street where he lived. i said i was unaware. alas, george sighed. it was never moved to write about it. imagine the existential goalkeeper. alas i said and he gave me a look. but it was never a question forn george.
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what to do next is the question although existential imaginings were at the heart of all of his magazine pieces especially. he would develop innate yet and ideas, but would it be like and then find a way to put himself into the action. i asked if he had considered a communist soccer goalie. he had of course, that he had already read about guarding the hockey net for the boston bruins. so i said, are you going to write a memoir? i was dating him a little.a i knew several publishers interested in it offered in more than a million dollars for this. i don't want to write about my life church said. that's what she do not. shouldn't that be enough. that memoir came up all the time. people were always asking when he was going to write one.
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just thinking about it or condemn. w he said it's not vanity. they wound up having to do it for money, so be it, not yet. the publisher was that george knew everybody. any less would be incomplete. sinatra.incomple late night drinking covert. who have not offered church the editorship of playboy numerous times. jacqueline kennedy.umerous george's brothers said he dated her. warren beatty would call, scream into the phone, is this the man has never tasted in all that? lauren, is that you? it was a small inside joke like george had with everyone. no one ever knew what it was about. but no matter who you were, if you had george adjust to the same party, and his manners pulled u.n. ami chief has somehow come to roll and maybe
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even in a time of the secrets. s he had a way of bowing his head split the money shipyard and when he met you, which was subtle, but very, very flattering. this happened all that because george met so many people. he couldn't remember names. but then that didn't matter. there's the great man church as they see someone approaching him at a party he had met before but whose name he could not afford. there's the great man. of course there's the great bid was also how george wants greeted a kid delivering pizza. so we went down a lot. we went to the parties and sporting events at the guarded for all the security guys they george. mostly we went to dinner. macaroni and cheese he littered
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relentlessly. of course there are the parties at his house, too. this is is the ed send maine-based noncelebrity splinters right instead to in the 60s and 70s, that the parties were crowded with good-looking accomplished people. at least the kids working downstairs where good-looking. unbeknownst to george, the young woman were having a contest to see who could write the shortest skirt and get george's attention. george was always looking foroog expeditions. he had a scheme in christmas of 98 we were going to go green hunting elements. old-fashioned hans, except we were going to use tranquilizers because we were going to tag elements or research. hunter thompson would come, too. but all celebrate new year's. we plan to play in this, but we
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never made a trip. we did however make many othersv involving hunter who as i said earlier shared this unlikely but infallible friendship with george. this was directly related to how they both felt more and more trapped by personas they had created for themselves, that they're writing had made into the architecture of their success. so because of this in the way those things connected, they recognized each other as allies almost immediately. although they did not agree on what happened when they first met, except it was on the flight from france or to zaire to cover the opiate farming fight, thera so-called rumble in the jungle
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by kidney and 74. they received mates. george remembered that hunter was worried about not gettingorr paid her a lecture he delivered where he'd run amok on what turkey. hunter said very clearly she and george had compared boxing that like the professionals they wear. george remembered that hunter was talking about secret weapons, huge torpedoes constructed in the congo. remember george e. promoted as prince of the realm. george would remember and say that while he embarked on a week of serious root for name, hunter small cash in the hotel pool and wound up missing the site. know what i remember is mohammed ali was extremely interested in both of them.
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so back in the states they talked about each other as if they were old friends which was easy because they have so much in common. for example, in their career establishing books, paper lion and half angels are published within months of each other over 96, 97. both praise for immersive reporting an original voice. hunter about what he called the wild power of the language in purity of madness that governs and yet makes its music. george would shrug and play the piano in short weeks when he was writing. they were the same height. close to 6-for. they loved drinking, but never wanted. within, sports and they were evenly matched.
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george is a better athlete. hunter was stronger. there is very competitive. at that point in 1989, george and i decided to visit hunterph after he sent me a photo of himself sinking a 40-foot putt at the golf club and ask them. he sighed across the image and on the back there was a message does that come out and play golf sometime in the bid plus. bring george. another big plus. and money. i will be those of you like mules. so i had visited his form before and told george that this distractions, but we arrived hopeful about connected my plan was to get hunter to read the first issue of the magazine i was writing called smart. george was there to interview
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hunter for what he planned to be the first interview in the art of the journalism series for the paris review. i've been hunter. but first we have to play golf. acid caused to be more specific. i'm going to read a little more here. this is the first evening in thv dying light of the aspen golfgolf club which was close. hunter waved to a guy in the pro shop who brought us a bucket of and hunter had a 12 gauge shotgun in his bag. we had high make ends in a cooler. if it did show this, affect of josé cuervo, jurors for george and an extra cooler of i.c.e. and dear hunter said holding out freeway tubbs applauded papers that i'm familiar with symbol on them. bbs. put it on his tongue, stuck his
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tongue out at us. i took my tab, did the same. when george said he wanted to concentrate on its golf, he liked that and said last of the batch. i will tell you that george i would try anything, but he was also covered very, very serious about his work in this interview was important. so he was working here. but alas. following his sleep we used thee first is the driving range of sorts to warm up. hunter's swing was explosive and despair drives with solid at all. t george had a fluid swing controls each of his ball successfully further.. i've never played but was not pathetic. hunter accused me of sandbagging and i said it was time to get serious about the gambling events occur to his favoritete hole, the fort saint. this is a short par three straight shot over a large pond.
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the asking course is a certified audubon's century in the pond was full of peace. he said hunter, you'd think church to doing. i said no. we are gambling. alas, made himself the doers of water. each of us would hit five in a row off the tee and then proceed to the greens to putt. on their best ball account and we are in for a pass in. george put all five of his ball some agreed. we close enough for birdies. hunter but three of the wider. didn't matter. we got to the green, he put to him for birdies. hunter madison had one left to
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tie if he could think a 30-foot putt like the one he'd been theo celebrating in the photo he had sent. he walked back and forth between the ball and the whole several had times.alnd i was on the other side of the cup holding the flag. it was dark now. at least as dark as it gets an asinine summer night in the sky still had that close. i could barely see hunter's ball. george is by the cards make in himself another of water. silent hunter shouted that i know your tricks. he took at least two minutes lineup this putt and struck quickly and missed by about a foot. charging after it, he let out a howl and winged his putter into the pond. the key started talking. hunter turned back to the cart, pulled the 12 gauge, fired overr the keys and they lifted off the
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pond like a sparkling crowd of grated white feathers. it occurred to me as i watched the glitter blend into the fading sky that having a storyat to tell about acid golf with hunter and george was probably good for my career. but i'm still not sure about that. in any case, we got to the interview the next afternoon and it went through the night. finally it ended with george asking hunter about writing under the influence of boos orn drugs, noting that every writer had ever interviewed over all those years have said they could not do that. it wouldn't work. they lie is how hunter began his answer, which ended who do yousw think that the book of revelations a bunch of stonene sober clerics? it was leaving the next afternoon, he pulled me aside and said we need to get george
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better drugs. it was a great interview and what it was about to appear in the paris review, george sent hunter and advanced copy and we didn't hear anything. then hunter sent back a page from the bible, revelations is a big black spot on it. you remember, this is just like the page that long john silver sent to the dogs to pronouncece him guilty of stealing captain flint's treasure for the rest of the pirate. love my problem was watching that you're less than $200,000 dependent not just a this new desktop technology that i was using, but also convincing writers to work for shares in fr the magazine, more or less for free. their names were the only collateral i had to raise more
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money and everyone i asked kind on starting with george. hunter loves the idea of having shares, stock, only slightly less than he hated the idea of working for free. he eventually agreed after george told him it was a solid investment. anyway, hunter agreed to write a column called the year of the wolf. but no coffee was forthcoming. i complain. he offered patience and encouragement. when a bus but agassi to a japanese investor, i went to "esquire." here at the wolf: came with me but was still plagued with deadline misunderstandings asta hunter called them. he would often call in the middle of the night, promising to draft of the secret noveldrat instead. a secret novel called polo is m.
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life. he said it had grown out of -- he said it had grown out of the piece that i had assigned him that got them back in the "rolling stone" which is anothe chapter in the book. he loved that assignment. i complained. still, george of his patients, more encouragement. months passed until as if by some stroke of sympathetic magic, right when i decided to give up on year of the wolf, polo is my life arrived at "esquire." but it was not a manuscript. what it was in a huge crate packed with bubble wrap was a four by eight sheet of plywood with cross polo mallet with 550 caliber ammunition rounds, machine-gun round and the news
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spread across the top and all over the board, every surface of it covered with photos, press, types, x-rays, note, lipstick quote, a joint or two, court records. it was all covered. .. this was a wonderful thing, the conference room where it hung is a major attraction until i left the magazine. writers would come and look at it. this was hunter's burden of guilt like the black spot. george said he had never seen a writer put so much effort into not writing. i puzzled over this.
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hunter had once told george that if you were rich, a relative term for him, he would wander around like king farouk when he was a boy. that he was going to write something for him and probably >> hunter or always said he had taught himself to write as a young man by reading "the great gatsby" aloud as he typed theat manuscript. hunter's own middle name was stockton. he never explained why, only that his father had been born in the last century in a place called horse cave, kentucky, a place full of great spookiness for him. george's middle name, ames, was from his great grandfather, a civil war hero. george had met the boy general
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when he was 6 and had, thus, george would say look into the eyes of a man who had faced pickett's charge, imagine what he saw. he liked talking about his family, and as always, hunter wanted he was especially interested in this boy general. well, he was very severe, and i was afraid, george said. we were in the garden of his house, and he picked up a twig and snapped it in half and said, life ends like that, boy. hunter loved that. so the most important magazines for george were the parish review and sports be illustrated -- "sports illustrated" which he had been writing for since -- [inaudible]
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it was a hot start-up before anybody used such a term, and much has been written about the good times in paris and the careers that came later. i do not write about that. but i write about the questions that george had and the question about him always among his friends was why he spent so much time on the paris review instead of on his own writing. some of his oldest friends from the review, especially matheson and terry southern -- great writers, all, great friends, all -- were even a little arrogant about it. why wasn't george tormenting himself with the ambition to write important books like they were? whenever this came up, george would get mad. i remember we talked about this one time when we were working on a piece for smart, but it was about what it was like to mouth
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catch a grape dropped from the top of trump tower. [laughter] now, something about the seriousness we were applying to something so profoundly silly made george even madder. i think this is because for george the paris review became a spiritual hideout for 50 years. paid nothing, of course, so he decided to make his way as a journalist until he settled on what his more serious work might be.a and in the meantime, he would write about sports and have some fun at the same time. and there are stories in the book about the early days of george's journalism in s.i. like the time, the first time out he was pitching to major league all-stars at yankee stadium when the public address announcer
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bungled his name, calling him george proofrock -- [laughter]ng an irony not lost on george as a t.s. eliot aficionado of sorts. george didn't write that part of the story, but he used it in his storytelling all the time with the reference to the famous lina from the love song. well, george would say, my arm was rather like a ragged claw. come on. [laughter] when that story was expanded, when that s.i. story was expanded into george's first bestseller called "out of my league," ernest hemingway wirede george that it was, quoting here, beautifully on receivedd and incredibly conceived with the chilling quality of a true nightmare, the dark side of the moon of walter mitty. [laughter] well, it was a gift from hemingway intended as a
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marketing blurb, and hemingway's walter mitty analogy has a surface be truth to it, but it overlooked the obvious, and that is that the differences in mitty's day dreams, he always succeeded. in george's real life adventures, he always failed. the truth is, george's work had much more to do with every man than mitty which, you know, was always obscured by george's careful, receive depreciating -- self-depreciating prose. george plimpton was not a wimp. above his desk george had a photograph of hemingway walking a country road in winter kicking the can, you've probably all seen this picture, high over his head just days before he killed himself in 1961. in my office i had a photo of george wrestling the gun from sirhan sirhan's hand moments
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after he had shot george's friend, bobby kennedy, in los angeles in 1968. i was in george's office often, although he was never once in mine. i not at rolling stone, not at esquire, not at "sports illustrated" or anywhere else. this had nothing to do with the arrogance of never going to another man's office, this -- george was just too busy. counter to his reputation, he -- for never missing a party -- george guarded his calendar and spent most days when he wasn't traveling at the desk under that picture of hemingway writing the paris review. george could be a rascal on both sides, both as a writer and as an editor. a tough edit both ways. but i think he loved editing most of all and the puzzles of it, and that's why we grew closer.t
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george closed the 50th anniversary issue of the paris review two days before he died, and we spoke that afternoon about how he might contribute to the 50th anniversary of "sports illustrated" which was coming up. and as always, george had numerous ideas, and he took menn to dinner last night -- that night at the brook club where we sat at a long communal table with the other members. george loved the brook, spentmm many evenings there. longstanding member. his celebrity didn't pester him there. but peter matheson had mentioned to me that when george thought he was unobserved, he would sometimes let his face go almost blank, his jaw would drop. and it made him look dead or at least very sad or fighting something very dark. peter said it made him sad to see george that way, but i had never seen it until that night. and when we were leaving, he
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told me he had recently committed to $750,000 contractct to write that memoir, and he died the next night. a few days later his wife sarah was searching his computer and came across notes and obligations. the last entry was written at 1:25 on september 25th, the morning he died in his sleep. george often returned home from late dinners and sat typing until he was tired enough to turn in. the them woes was -- memos were ideas, drafts for letters, bits for maybe the new memoir that he was determined to write. that last morning he finished his note with a poem by emily dickenson. its has a song, it has a sting, ah, too, it has a wing. george was 76. hunter said he never expected to live to be 50 which was no
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consolation to anyone when he killed himself at 67, a year after george had passed. when i thought about hunter's last moments, i wondered about his final plans, the secret one he kept as he loaded that .45. i thought about that snapping twig. and then i thought about the adventure of working with him and with george. when they were alive, i was always surprised by how many people felt possessive of their friendships with both george and hunter. when they were both gone, i wondered about my own. i never told anyone, certainly neither of them, but through some kind of magical thinking, i thought of them almost as my best friends. truer of my relationship with george in spite of our age difference. hunter was more like a really crazy, dangerous cousin. [laughter]
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but i was always aware of gift george had to make people feel comfortable and important. as if they were great friends when they weren't very close at all. hunter had that too, and he could put anyone at ease when he felt like it, and this happened often. much more own than his reputation suggests. and it always struck me as something very kind. although his friendship could be situational or transactional, he was very sentimental about them. one christmas he sent me an expensive pocket be knife with the long hunt engraved on thekn blade. so george's bats in new mexico and hunter's midnight calls, they come back to me often. flashes of memory. i think that everyone who knew them has similar moments when remembering something one of them did or said illuminates
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them somehow. and every place i worked george wrote more me at least once -- for me at least once. and i know, i think i know that johnny depp has polo is my life along with the rest of hunter's papers. it was an extraordinary piece, but then it was just another part of working with hunter. like mouth-catching grapes was working with george. and it was like that all therkii time. you know, maybe it didn't -- i think now maybe it didn't make sense that the best work we did, everything we did had to have some joke at the bottom of it. not ha-ha jokes but hilarious none the same, like that black spot that hunter sent to george. and then i remember that treasure island is a very simple book with a very simple, clear pot; adventurous boy kidnapped by pirates, joins pirates.
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thank you very much. [applause] may i answer any questions. there's a minnesota -- a man over -- >> hi, thank you. welcome to savannah. i am a hard news news publisher, but we won't talk about that horror right now. can you talk a little bit about screenwriting? i'm also head of saw man ya screen -- savannah screenwriters. you're so well known for your editing work, but you were a screenwriter, miami vice, things like that. did it come from your background in news?
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tell us a little bit about screen writing. >> well, i, i never set out to be a screenwriter. when i was at "newsweek," there was a story about -- a horriblec story that surfaced. the it was the 20th anniversary of the fall of saigon, i think, and it was a story about how back then people had smuggled heroin out of vietnam in body bags. and i saw this story, and i knew the guy who was running fox at the time, number two there named david field, and he said you know who could really use this? michael mann. he's got this new idea for a show, it's called miami vice, it's about these two cops. so i sent the clipping to mann, and he called me up and said could we have breakfast tomorrow, and i said, sure. he said, thanks a lot for sending this, why tonight you write it?te i had never written a screenplay.
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it's like a puzzle, i'll show you how to do it, i'll teach you, and he did. and then i got to do that to support my habit in magazines a little bit. [laughter] oh, there. sir. >> thank you. two quick questions. one, george plimpton, in george being george, your comments about george plimpton not being walter mitty but really being james thurber, i thought you might want to talk about that for a moment. >> yeah. >> and secondly, in accidental life, often you apologize for you anytime the errors you head in your course of editing, and i'm just wondering if any one of the persons and particularly something like rick reilly who you sort of apologize about the column when he left "sports illustrated" and then he, whether any of these persons to whom you've apologized or admitted errors about have
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contacted you since "the accidental life" has come out. >> everybody except spike. spike lee. but, yeah, i've heard from rick. rick and i are friends again. we really enjoyed each other. rick reilly was the great back page columnist at "sports illustrated" for years. when i walked into "sports illustrated," it was like, within, like, six weeks of his contract being up, and espn was after him. and i, i didn't know what to do. so i, he was coming in to meet me for the first time, and i got the publicity photo from one of his books, and i framed it, and i put it behind my -- [laughter] on the wall behind where i sat. he came in, and i said shall we sit over at the coffee table to be equal, he said, nah, i'll just sit here, and he put his feet up on my desk, stretched back like that, and it took him
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ab 30 seconds, and he said are you that smart? [laughter] i said, no. i said, but i'll match the money. and then that worked. but eventually, "sports illustrated" lost him. espn be kept coming back, and when he finally left, it was for like 15 million, and if you would say that to sports writers, you know, 20 years ago, they would not believe you. >> [inaudible] >> well, there were a lot of people liked to talk about all that stuff.. george never liked it, never liked talking about it. he thought it should always speak for itself, but i was always struck by george's courage, because he, he was a good enough athlete to do all these things, and that meantnt that he was a good enough athlete to get hurt. and if you watch him in, you know, playing goalie for the boston bruins, for example, when -- i can't remember the
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guy's name, but his nickname was the rifle, is coming to take a shot on goal at him, it's really, really something. and george, george could box too. got beat up. but he never, he was always sort of going for something deeper, i think. he just wanted the inside, the camaraderie, what it felt like to be, you know, in a huddle or in that conference on the mound. that was more important to himad than throwing the ball. i don't know if that's helpful. we can talk later. >> one of the tricks to editing -- what are the tricks to editing such great, powerful writers? >> what are the tricks? >> yeah. how do you approach it? because that's got to be difficult with such great, wonderful -- >> well, the great thing about that is the best ones, you just have to hook paragraphs if you give them the right idea. it's -- you're done. it's about finding the idea to start with.
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there are sort of two, two ways, i mean, most of them were so meticulous, they would be angry about the insertion of a comma or the removal of a semicolon or something like that. mccarthy would spot something like that. jim harrison would say that he had thought everything out from the beginning and didn't have to change a thing, and he would just let it and then, of course, you would want to suggest some changes like if he'd repeated the same word in the same paragraph be,om and he would tell you that's exactly the way he had planned it. [laughter] and you were just, you weren't a writer anyway, so what were you to tell him that. [laughter] and hunter, hunter was one of the few people who knew he needed an editor, because the way he would work is he would, he would fire off false leads, two sentences at a time. and they would be funny and good, but they, they would not necessarily go together.e
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your job as an editor was to have all these false leads and put them together in some sequence that would make sense. but the real thing is if the idea works, you know, it's not going to be a problem. >> that was my question -- [inaudible] >> how do you edit an editor? usually with a lot of irony. [laughter] you know? it's, i was, like i said, i was very vain about my writing, and i wrote this -- i wanted to show these guys. but it was really, it was the engagement with them much more than it was any of the suggesting that this adjective was hanging there or something, you know? ing like something extra and clever.
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[inaudible question] >> still writing really long pieces. peter matheson once made me write 20,000 words. he just kept saying that is not wise, we should look at this the way it is. [inaudible question] >> i was duped. i was at newsweek and he called and said i have got something going on. i will send a reporter, he said you should take a very careful look at this i didn't get it. the subhead, if you take the first letter of each world, it says april fools. [laughter] it was about this guy who could throw a 190 mile-an-hour
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fastball, and he got the mets to go along with the junk. he had been raised by monks in the himalayas throwing rocks at goats, and he could throw aand strawberry through a locomotive. [laughter] and all the press bought this. i talked george into bringing sid back. oh, george, the favorite thing is people would ask him, have you heard from sid? he'd say, no. i've called, and there's never any answer, but then just the other day i called him, the line was busy. but [laughter] sir. >> [inaudible] lin >> there was a guy, when i was very young, i went to the middle east with a bunch of cameras and
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stuff, i was going to be a war correspondent.wa this was in what became black september in lebanon in 1970. i was lucky, i got picked up, i worked at the ap and bounced around, then i wound up in l.a. with a guy named bob sherrill who had worked as esquire. and what he liked to do was have me drive him around southern california just looking at things, and we would talk about story ideas. and one day he told me that i should think about being an editor because it was about ideas, and that was really moreo fun, and he said, plus, if you're a really good editor, you don't ever have the drive. [laughter] but i credit him, as i do in the book. he was, he did that to me. >> have you worked with any women writers? and if so, how was it different? and if not, how come? >> the problem, the reviewers have been less than kind about that because i didn't get to. i mean, there are a few in the book.av i always wanted to work with
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joan didion, she's my favorite writer, but it just neverts presented itself. i always edited, basically, men's magazine. the sad part was some of those were run by women, as i write about in a chapter in the book. but as far as differences, i can't imagine what they would be. i just don't know. i didn't get to do it. >> i think that's all you get. >> okay. thank you. [applause] >> here's a look at some upcoming book fairs and festivals happening around or the country. on march 11th and 12th, booktv will be live from the ninth annual tucson festival of books from the campus of the university of arizona. our schedule will include author talks and your calls with national book award-winning


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