Author: Tanza Loudenback

Reverberations of ‘The Goldfinch’

I just ended a three-month literary affair with ‘The Goldfinch’ by Donna Tartt. It was sincere, demanding, cerebral—and lengthy. I decided to pick up Tartt’s latest best-seller days after I learned of its Pulitzer Prize award for best fiction in April. The judges called it “a book that stimulates the mind and touches the heart.” Initially, the novel received rave reviews from critics at The New York Times (“’The Goldfinch’ is a rarity that comes along perhaps half a dozen times per decade, a smartly written literary novel that connects with the heart as well as the mind.”) and elsewhere, often calling it “Dickensian” literature. But, in recent news, ‘The Goldfinch’ has been the target of criticisms made by a select group of even higher brow literary agents at The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books and The Paris Review. All of which claim ‘The Goldfinch’ to be infantilizing our literary culture contemporarily and in the future. As knowledgeable society understands, no book, while its reviews may be tipping the scale, will sustain completely positive, or negative, judgments. Thus, the kerfuffle over ‘The Goldfinch’ raises …

The magic of travel writing

Travel is glamorous only in retrospect. -Paul Theroux, American travel writer and novelist.  This month, I collected three of my favorite travel magazines and dedicated time to studying the captivating storytelling each has to offer. By the end of each issue, I had a few favorite pieces. The best travel writing isn’t just about stellar accommodations or fabulous food. It’s about leaping out of comfort zones, emotional and mental maturation and the people who show up along the way. The magic of travel writing lies in its ability to shake up our perceptions of places and cultures—to see new meaning in those things we once believed to be familiar.  Condè Nast Traveler – “The Art of Being Alone” by Paul Theroux Why it’s good: Master travel writer Theroux reminds readers in this terse journal entry why travel is synonymous with solitude. Theroux, at 73, seems to understand the generational gap between himself and millennials, yet refuses to accept it as an excuse. He assures readers that loneliness can, in fact, feel good and that travel is the true safe haven. The best …

Is tragedy becoming the new beat?

It’s difficult to accept, but we live in an era of senseless violence. Horrific events such as the Sandy Hook and Virginia Tech massacres, the Aurora movie theatre shooting, the Boston Marathon bombing and, most recently, the mass shooting that killed 6 and injured even more in Isla Vista, Calif., are begging to bring to the forefront arguments involving gun control, mental illness and a slew of other issues. Journalists have always covered wars and mass deaths, but as of late, tragedy is being redefined. Tragedies have become less about where the violence occurred and in what context and more about what we can do—as progressive people—to stop this violence from happening. Massacres are becoming far too commonplace. When is enough, enough? Unfortunately, there are many who believe that these mass killings are indirect works of the media. People like this Thought Catalog blogger believe killers strive for attention and journalists give them the stage upon which to become a star. This is a cry from sects of the American public for journalists to remember their ethical standards in a time of tragedy. Journalists should continue …

A list of good journalism

Just like sports players have their ‘fantasy league’ teams, writers deserve their own list of industry MVPs. Sure, there are Pulitzer winners each year but some of the best work by the average Joes and Janes of journalism often goes unnoticed. The other day I stumbled upon an article: “Slightly more than 100 pieces of good journalism” by The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf. In the short introduction, I learn that Friedersdorf sends out a bi-weekly email containing great journalism recommendations for readers. (Sign up here). Then, each year, he compiles the pieces he’s highlighted into a “Best of Journalism Awards” list. This list has become my manifesto for good journalism. What I like most about Friedersdorf’s list is that he doesn’t interject his opinion. He provides a publication, article title, author and a short excerpt—leaving further exploration and judgement up to readers. The cool thing: No. 1 on the 2013 list? Center of the Universe, the piece published in Orange Coast Magazine that I recently blogged about. A small reassurance that I, too, have an eye for good journalism. It’s resources like this list of worthy journalism …

How to be an intrepid journalist

My reporting professor calls us intrepid journalists. An intrepid journalist is someone who is brave in their reporting and writing. An intrepid journalist is audacious enough to get that interview, to have that conversation, to write that story. An intrepid journalist is courageous and dauntless. As an aspiring journalist, I’m always admiring journalists who are exceptionally intrepid in their pursuits. I like to think there are even a few different ways to be an intrepid journalist: exposing oneself to danger or discomfort to capture a story that must be told telling a controversial story that must be told sharing personal details to recognize universal truths Each of these types have one common denominator: telling a story. Recently I was scanning Twitter and a tweet by Orange Coast Magazine led me to an incredible story. Click to find out why this story is STILL getting read all over the world: http://t.co/jotgtsMNUL Seduction and a serial killer… — Orange Coast (@OrangeCoastmag) May 12, 2014 The feature piece, Center of the Universe, was published last September and written by Jay Roberts. After reading it, I learned why it’s …

The Hunter S. Thompson in all of us

Before “Fear and Loathing,” “Hell’s Angels” and pioneering “Gonzo journalism,” Hunter S. Thompson was just a strapping young journalist committed to the craft. (See: Before Gonzo: Hunter S. Thompson’s Early, Underrated Journalism Career) As he is indicted into the 2014 Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame today, let us remember his humble beginnings. Beginnings that may seem familiar to many junior journalists today. Even while his career evolved into a mere caricature of his life—exuberant, exaggerated, eccentric—he began as an eager reporter. (Sadly, his charismatic character still tends to outshine his undeniable journalistic and literary abilities.) Atlantic writer, Brian Kevin, set out to chronicle some of Thompson’s earlier work to prove he was more traditional than many tend to believe. We learn that as an apprentice he traveled the Western Hemisphere churning out travel guides, straight news stories, book reviews and essays—anything he could get his hands on. Thompson positioned himself as a jack of all beats. During his time as a freelancer he experienced, absorbed, learned and practiced. What more could you ask of an aspiring journalist? And so, Kevin yearns …

The power of the blogosphere

Like it or not, blogging is becoming a seriously viable player in the news media of the 21st century. Many businesses and corporations who don’t have blogs are taking hits in ways they never expected. Individuals blog to share thoughts and ideas with others whom they may never cross paths with. Blog (noun); a website on which someone writes about personal opinions, activities and experiences. In our arguably impersonal society, blogs offer a way of relating and humanizing. They take news reporting and business handling a step further. They allow companies to relate to people. They allow world issues to relate to people. They allow people to relate to people.  That’s not to say some blogs aren’t rubbish—but it’s also to say many present valid and respectable fact and opinion. My favorite blog, Thought Catalog, blogs on issues that span the spectrum. From social issues to political issues to personal issues, all thoughts are relevant, they say. Fairly often, a Thought Catalog piece will catch my eye. It will make me think, it will inform me, it will inspire me.* Blogging is a new form of …

The balancing act of digital journalism

Like many these days, I get my news online. Twitter and Facebook feeds provide me with bite-sized chunks of information that I can click, read (sometimes skim) and share or send to others. Thus, when an Atlantic article popped up in my Facebook feed today entitled “My Students Don’t Know How to Have a Conversation,” I clicked and read. What I learned made me realize that the future of journalism (and the rest of the world) is in the hands of these students. Some who can’t even hold a conversation… Paul Barnwell, a high school teacher and author of the Atlantic article, said that through projects aiming to practice the skill of conversation he is “focused on sharpening students’ ability to move back and forth between the digital and real world.” Barnwell notices a lack of intellectual discussion, online and in person, among his students and the millennial generation as a whole. Think about this: his class is surely comprised of future lawyers, doctors, engineers, teachers, government officials and most importantly (for the sake of this blog) future journalists. …

Wisdom from a novelist

Jill McCorkle may be the most quotable writer I’ve ever had the pleasure of speaking with. McCorkle, a fiction novelist and creative writing professor at NC State, visited Elon Monday to share some insight with us. Something struck me about McCorkle: the fact that she was able to so eloquently and honestly answer any and all questions my reporting class threw her way. I asked three questions during our 60-minute discussion with her. Here are my questions and her brilliant responses: 1. What are the major differences between a journalistic writing process and a creative non-fiction writing process? One of the biggest, most obvious differences, said McCorkle, is that non-fiction gives you the license to lie and to fill in the blanks. “On a good day, writing non-fiction does feel like a stream of consciousness,” McCorkle said. But, she said, the two have the aspect of self-disipline in common. Some of McCorkle’s most disciplined friends began with a career in journalism. Also, the revision process of creative writing is not unlike journalism, she said. But McCorkle admited …

‘A glorious ride’

Dr. J Earl Danieley still has his wits about him. That’s for sure. Today, during his convocation “conversation” with current President Leo Lambert, Dr. Danieley incited laughter, smiles and memories as he recounted his 70 years with Elon. The comedic moments: When Dr. Danieley said, “I took a job at the high school teaching chemistry. And (laughs) french! I can hardly Parlez–Vous!” On the conception of study abroad programs at Elon: Upon every professor’s inquiry to take his or her class on a trip during winter term, Dr. Danieley said, “sounds good to me!” Leo Lambert: So tell me how chemistry has changed over the last 70 years. [Dr. Danieley told a story for nearly 5 minutes] Leo Lambert: But you still haven’t told me about how chemistry has changed! Dr. Danieley: Oh yes! Wait, I have to tell you one more thing first! Dr. Danieley: I remember all my teachers, 1st, 2nd, “Oh, I loved my 3rd grade teacher, she was a beauty!” The insightful moments: Dr. Danieley’s storytelling: I counted at least seven, detailed, enthusiastic stories. When asked, “Why do you …