From The Rapidian staff
Each week, a Rapidian staffer will publish a piece related to goings-on at The Rapidian, developments in the world of citizen journalism and tips for making the most of the site. Click here for past editorials.
Neighborhood participants in the video:
Other articles by the same author
From The Rapidian staff: Say you're a fly on the wall. Or, no—let's do this up Harry Potter-style—say you have an invisibility cloak. You can go anywhere you want, hear anything you want, completely unnoticed. What's your first pick? That was the question I posed on a Monday night as I strolled around my neighborhood, camera in hand.
Despite the young-adult fiction twist, the question isn't a new one. Narrative nonfiction, or literary journalism, has been a long-practiced, long-devoted art form where journalists weave themselves into the backdrop. As Rapidian reporter Michael Tuffelmire will be proving much of this week, interviewing will result in self-censored answers while going undercover can be a trove of unfiltered observations.
While they are too numerous to count, an example is Gay Talese's "Frank Sinatra has a cold," published in 1966 in Esquire. Talese shadows Sinatra for three months, following him from movie set to dinners and seeing how the star is adjusting to a changing entertainment landscape ("I don't want anybody in here without coats and ties"), but never interviewing him. It was his piece that spawned the term "New Journalism," and it is still widely taught in university classrooms. Here's a taste:
Sinatra with a cold is Picasso without paint, Ferrari without fuel—only worse. For the common cold robs Sinatra of that uninsurable jewel, his voice, cutting into the core of his confidence, and it affects not only his own psyche but also seems to cause a kind of psychosomatic nasal drip within dozens of people who work for him, drink with him, love him, depend on him for their own welfare and stability. A Sinatra with a cold can, in a small way, send vibrations through the entertainment industry and beyond as surely as a President of the United States, suddenly sick, can shake the national economy. [Hear Talese read an excerpt]
Anne Fadiman's "The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down" is one of my favorites, in which Fadiman documents a Hmong family's quest in central California to navigate their daughter's epilepsy, a mysterious mixed blessing in Hmong culture but approached as a flat-out defect by Western medicine. The vast cultural divide has all players splitting hairs over terminology, routine and social cues. Fadiman keeps tabs on the family for several years.
I was feeling a little shy when I dispatched myself last night, so I approached friends, acquaintances and those I've seen around the block but with whom I've never had an excuse to chat up.
My own answer was to peer over the shoulders at Nantucket Baking Company and learn their baking secrets, especially for the herbed sourdough and five-seed loaves. To my surprise, I got an off-the-cuff invitation to be an intern. Ask and you shall receive.
This is a fun question, but a reminder: The Rapidian does not in any way endorse self-endangerment in pursuit of a story. So, dear readers, pray tell: If you could see anything you want, observe anything unfiltered, what would it be?
Former citizen journalism coordinator for The Rapidian. Bicycle commuter, experimental cook, aspiring athlete, wannabe programmer, infrequent pianist, language lover, tupperware fanatic and tea junkie. A proud Midtownie but a West Coast girl at heart.
Reports on: Tech, Midtown neighborhood, anything that catches my fancy, &c.