At the annual Printers' Ball in Chicago, I was choosy about what to take. Everything's free and most of it is in the right ballpark interest-wise. I had a subscription to Stop Smiling a few years ago and let it slip, so I was happy to stumble on a copy of #22, The Downfall of American Publishing, which must have come out in 2005 after Hunter S Thompson took his own life in Woody Creek, Colorado. I was in Berlin at the time, and it was only a month or so before Thompson's death that Susan Songtag had died. Both writers meant a lot to me in my teenage years and informed my sense as a young writer of the relationship between the word and the world, of the experience of writing and the experience of living and what happens to a life when one writes it down. I saw one of my favorite filmmakers, Frederic Wiseman, screening his work at Arsenal, and Wiseman has always been one of my heros for his life-long investigation of institutions, a pioneer of cinéma vérité (a term I've since learned he doesn't like). I wondered if his objective approach to documentary filmmaking was in any way related to a new approach to journalism that was forming in the late 60s? After all, Wiseman was working on his first big hit, Titticut Follies (1967), an investigation of a questionable mental institution in Massachusetts, while Thompson was writing his first major book, Hells Angels (1966) and Songtag was writing Against Interpretation (also 1966). Wiseman's response was fascinating: 'No, not at all actually. The biggest thing that happened during the sixties as far as my experience of documenting situations was the invention of film that could capture image and sound on one reel--before that it was always a struggle to get the sound and the image to correspond with one another.' Needless to say, the generous 35-page tribute to Thompson and his work reminded me of the importance of reading him for the first time, but the focus on publishing, more generally, is something that readers of this blog will definitely want because it has articles on: Lewis Lapham of Harper's, Barney Rosset of Grove Press, Philip Gourevitch of The Paris Review, David Rosenthal of Simon and Schuster, HW Ross of The New Yorker, and more. Back issues are available


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