As a veteran of the “New Journalism” movement that revolutionized American nonfiction writing back in the ’60s, Gay Talese stands as one of the most influential journalists alive. Pieces like “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold” are frequently taught in journalism school as the peak of the form. So it’s little wonder that when Talese spoke at Boston University this weekend for a journalism conference, he was asked about women writers who inspired him. Unfortunately, Talese responded that he couldn’t think of any women writers he liked. Doubly confusing since Talese’s own “New Journalism” cohort included brilliant women like Joan Didion, this answer outraged many writers on Twitter.
After the comments went viral, writers like Neil Gaiman and John Scalzi provided lists of women writers who inspired them. They ended up with the opposite problem of Talese, admitting they didn’t have enough room to name ALL their female favorites.
Other writers were a little less generous, and took direct aim at Talese himself.