Wednesday, 29 October 2008

This week's crush

I just ordered* The New Kings of Non-Fiction, edited by Ira Glass. Published last year, it only just surfaced for me via Scott Berkun.**

Based on my boundless admiration for Glass's radio work, I'm pre-emptively declaring the book this week's crush.

Glass's radio programmes can slide from hilarious to heartbreaking in the space of five minutes, and always leave me wanting more. Like some of my other intellectual crushes, he's an extraordinary storyteller. His Transom Manifesto is one of the most valuable things I've made the time to read in the past year. It might be about building radio programmes, but you can apply his ideas to almost any kind of situation when you want to make something stick to your audience.

One of the points that stood out for me was this:

It's helpful to build into the way you think about stories the notion that lots of ideas aren't going to pan out. Our show's acquisitions budget, even at very beginning when we were still struggling for every dollar, was set up to commission a fourth more stories than we'd ever run, with the assumption we'll be killing lots of ideas.

Killing ideas is so, so hard. Editing out the great, gory, glorious quotations you've salted your essays with can feel like you're carving away at your own flesh. But god - imagine if public galleries worked up 20 shows a year, and then went forward with just the 15, or 10, or 5, best. And that that was okay with everyone - because they were the best. Wouldn't that be great?

* I say 'I', I may mean someone-else-who's-very-kind
** Who gave it a 3/5 rating, but who also loves the Best American series the way I do, so I'm not going to mind if TNKONF doesn't scale the heights I'm hoping it will.

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