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Would you rather read a book by a journalist – or a writer?

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I’ve read a few books by journalists recently, and they have raised in my mind the question of whether journalists make good authors … and vice versa. Or, perhaps put less judgmentally, whether the craft of journalism lends itself to the craft of book writing.

It seems to me that journalists are at a disadvantage in that they have so much to tell.  They’ve been there, seen it, heard it, watched it, interviewed it, read it. The desire to get the story out must be excruciating.

Yet, most of the books I think of that people love – "Gone with the Wind," "Catcher in the Rye," "The Great Gatsby," "Harry Potter," Steven King – don’t seem to work from a point of urgency. They start at a distant point – Ashley Wilkes’ barbecue; under the stairs – and wend slowly toward an excruciating conclusion. It’s a whole different experience of reading, and, I would think, writing.

To be fair, I’m comparing apples and oranges, nonfiction and fiction. And obviously many great writers jump back and forth between genres: George Orwell, Mark Twain, Hunter S. Thompson. But, I have to say, it’s Animal Farm I remember, not Homage to Catalonia.


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