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The Journalists Who Wouldn't Write Straight

Feb 27, 2006 (Fresh Air)

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Not long ago, "new journalism" referred not to technological advances but to changes in approach and style. Those changes, ushered in by gonzo writers like Hunter S. Thompson as well as more serious chroniclers like Joan Didion, are the subject of Marc Weingarten's The Gang That Wouldn't Write Straight.

The book follows the evolution of a new style of storytelling, in which writers immersed themselves in the experiences they described in the pages of magazines like Esquire and New York. While based on fact, stories by early practitioners Norman Mailer and Truman Capote were also full of personal impressions.

As the style developed, it expanded in new ways: Rolling Stone magazine touted the writing of Hunter S. Thompson, while events in Vietnam were brought to life by Michael Herr and John Sack in Esquire.

Weingarten follows that evolution — and the way it changed the business of journalism — by following the careers of writers and editors who were at the center of it all.

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