THE SERENDIPITER – GAY TALESE
Serendipity happens when we open our eyes to the unexpected. At its best, this means seeing bridges where others see holes. In our day-to-day lives, we often fail to capture serendipitous moments.
The basis to practice and benefit from applied serendipity is adopting the mindset that serendipitous opportunities exist all around us. As we live and we act in a state of a serendipitous mental preparedness we see fortunate opportunities approaching at us.
The prolific journalist-author Gay Talese (b. 1932), published his first book: “New York: A Serendipter’s Journey”. There, he minted the word “serendipiter”.
In this book he declared “New York is a city of things unnoticed”. He documented in his articles numerous odd things that happen all over the island of Manhattan. But actually his entire rich life story as a journalist and author is a series of serendipitous events. Talese's entry into the writers’ profession was entirely a happenstance, and the unintended consequence of a high school sophomore.
How did it happen?
Talese recalls in his 1996 memoir Origins of a Nonfiction Writer:
In high school, on the mistaken assumption that relieving the athletic department of its press duties would gain me the gratitude of the coach and get me more playing time, I took the job and even embellished it by using my typing skills to compose my own account of the games rather than merely relaying the information to the newspapers by telephone…
Later after only seven sports articles, Talese was given his own column for the weekly Ocean City Sentinel-Ledger. By the time Talese left for college during September 1949, he had written 311 stories and columns for the Sentinel-Ledger.
Talese credits his mother as the role model he followed in developing the interviewing techniques that would serve him well later in life. He interviewed such varied subjects as mafia members and middle-class Americans on their sexual habits. He relates in his memoir, “A Writer's Life”:
I learned (from my mother)... “to listen with patience and care, and never to interrupt even when people were having great difficulty in explaining themselves, for during such halting and imprecise moments... people are very revealing - what they hesitate to talk about can tell much about them. Their pauses, their evasions, their sudden shifts in subject matter are likely indicators of what embarrasses them, or irritates them.”
Over his many years career, as a journalist for The N.Y. Times and Esquire magazine, Talese wrote articles based on his keen eyes odd observations such as the chairs used on the boardwalk of Atlantic City, or the colony of ants he discovered at the top of the Empire State Building. Think about it, how the hell ants colonized at the top of this famous New York city landmark?
In other words, serendipitous artists, writers or painters, discover mundane stuff that is developed into prose, art or science.
Serendipity is everywhere, surrounding you. Right now!
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