publish things &
We have a TLDR problem
For writers, Summarizing is like dying. SInce We can't avoid it,
we should make it look rad when it happens.
The project started when an editor at The New York Times sent me proof copies of three books on Harlem—a literary memoire, a collection of photographs, and a historical monograph. I was writing for the paper's magazine supplement, so my job was not to write a conventional review but to tell a story about these books, something coherent and compelling in its own right. Since a dragged-out summary is never any fun, a better approach was to locate a common brand for these books—something like a set of shared expectations and hopes and desires that are likely to precede these books among interested readers. That approach pointed at Harlem itself, and just as each of these books was at once a celebration and a lamentation of Harlem, anything I would write would have to hit the same notes. Here's how it turned out:
It can be hard to measure if a particular writing tactic works or fails, but the good news here is that when two of the books went to press they printed blurbs of my writing front and center: