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George Robinson <[log in to unmask]>
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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 7 Jul 1998 22:24:29 -0400
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Andrew J Hoffman wrote:
> Thank you all for you lists, a wildly rich assortment, many I have
> thought to read anyway but had to date lacked the full inspiration to
> crack.  Your enthusiasm, and the practical considerations of preparing a
> course, move me onward.  Don't hesitate to throw out more suggestions as
> they come to mind.   Thanks again, fellow Forumites.

Actually, I was under the (perhaps mistaken) impression that you were
looking for _short_ pieces for your students. Proceeding on that
assumption, allow me to suggest a few things.

For short non-fiction, the logical place to look is the newspapers. The
best columnists get under a thousand words to work with, so they have to
grab a reader quick, convey information economically, set mood with

As Donald Hall has said (and you could do a lot worse than to give your
class some of his non-fiction writing!) the best and worst writing in
any newspaper can be found in the sports section. Give them something by
Red Smith, Jimmy Cannon, Frank DeFord (for a longer magazine piece he's
the master), Thomas Boswell and Roger Angell on baseball, Dan Jenkins on
golf or football.

Any column by Jimmy Breslin will be worth reading, but I particularly
recommend his piece after JFK was shot; Breslin sought out and profiled
the gravedigger, and the result is so moving, so unusual, that my wife's
professors at Columbia School of Journalism actually tell their
students, "Look for the gravedigger," when they want to convey the
importance of finding a new angle on a story everyone is covering.

In a considerably different vein, John McPhee is proof that you can
write interestingly on almost any subject: oranges, the Swiss Army,
merchant seamen.

Oh, and there are some nice non-fiction pieces by a 19th century
American writer. I think his name was Clemens. Something like that.

George Robinson