Talese Tells JSU Crowd of His Life as a Storyteller
By Crystal Jarvis
Star Staff Writer
|Author Gay Talese speaks Tuesday at Jacksonville
State University's Houston Cole Library. Photo: Kevin Qualls/The Anniston Star
Reprinted here from the Anniston Star in its entirety.
As an 11-year-old boy, Gay Talese learned how to draw out a compelling story
from people simply by watching his mother sell dresses in her small boutique.
With modest charm, his mother posed questions in an unobtrusive way to the
wealthy women of Ocean City, N.J., and listened as they poured out their life
stories and expressed their opinions while trying on dresses.
Talese later used his mother’s approach in his career as a journalist. He
conversed with everyday people and reported the stories that broke the surface
of an issue on the forefront.
“They had stories to tell, and I was their vehicle,” Talese, now 75, said
Tuesday in this year’s Harry M. and Edel Ayers Lecture Series at Jacksonville
State University’s Houston Cole Library.
Talese is the author of seven books, including his latest memoir, A Writer’s
Life, which chronicles his work as a writer, including stints as an office boy
and a sports writer at the New York Times.
Talese said he spent most of his time chronicling the lives of people he came
in contact with, including students when he attended the University and soldiers
when he went into the military.
“I wrote just about everything my curiosity would lead me to do,” he said.
Talese got his start as a writer when he began calling in the scores for his
high school’s baseball games to the local newspaper, the Ocean City
Sentinel-Ledger. He landed a job at the paper and wrote some 300 articles and
columns before he left for Alabama.
Talese later covered stories in Selma during the Civil Rights Movement.
He was there to capture some of the stories that many people would not think
to capture during Bloody Sunday.
Instead of interviewing protesters in the streets, he went to talk to members
of the Selma Country Club to get their point of view.
He later was thanked for capturing the views of the movement in a different
Talese eventually retired from the Times and now calls himself an “old
fashioned reporter who loves to write and know people,”
The lecture was sponsored by the JSU Department of Communication and The
Several audience members said they learned a great deal from the speech.
Katherine Thomas, a senior majoring in Journalism at the University of
Alabama, said Talese has a way with words and has a special gift of noticing the
“heart of the stories.”
“He was so personable, you just felt like you could sit down with him and he
would not treat you with judgment and be open,” she said.
Jesse Chappell, a social science major at JSU, said he can relate to Talese’s
affection for the common man and for meeting new people.
“I thought it was very informative,” he said of the speech. “I like to know
people’s story and I just like to study people as a social science major.”
The Star’s publisher, H. Brandt Ayers, summed up the lecture.
“He tells the truth in a very attractive style,” Ayers said.
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