The Accidental Life

The Accidental Life

An Editor's Notes on Writing and Writers

Book - 2016
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An Amazon Best Book of 2016

A celebration of the writing and editing life, as well as a look behind the scenes at some of the most influential magazines in America (and the writers who made them what they are).
You might not know Terry McDonell, but you certainly know his work. Among the magazines he has top-edited: Outside, Rolling Stone, Esquire,  and  Sports Illustrated.  In this revealing memoir, McDonell talks about what really happens when editors and writers work with deadlines ticking (or drinks on the bar). His stories about the people and personalities he's known are both heartbreaking and bitingly funny--playing "acid golf" with Hunter S. Thompson, practicing brinksmanship with David Carr and Steve Jobs, working the European fashion scene with Liz Tilberis, pitching TV pilots with Richard Price.

Here, too, is an expert's practical advice on how to recruit--and keep--high-profile talent; what makes a compelling lede; how to grow online traffic that translates into dollars; and how, in whatever format, on whatever platform, a good editor really works, and what it takes to write well.

Taking us from the raucous days of New Journalism to today's digital landscape, McDonell argues that the need for clear storytelling from trustworthy news sources has never been stronger. Says Jeffrey Eugenides: "Every time I run into Terry, I think how great it would be to have dinner with him. Hear about the writers he's known and edited over the years, what the magazine business was like back then, how it's changed and where it's going, inside info about Edward Abbey, Jim Harrison, Annie Proulx, old New York, and the Swimsuit issue. That dinner is this book."
Publisher: New York :, Alfred A. Knopf,, 2016
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9781101946718
Branch Call Number: 921 MCD
Characteristics: xii, 369 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm


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Oct 29, 2016

As a longtime magazine and (mostly) book editor, I was disappointed in this book. It seems a series of loosely connected PEOPLE-like pieces about writers, writing, and magazines. There are some great moments, such as the surprising revelation of great writing @ SPORTS ILLUSTRATED.
McDonnell’s poseur outlaw/cowboy shtick was a bit much, likewise his obsession with all things Hunter Thompson; but enjoyed the history and behind-the-scenes info about so many major magazines, especially SI.

Sep 27, 2016

Excellent writing and most
enjoyable reading

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