Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Examining The Newspaper Column As Literature

Errol Lewis, a former columnist for the New York Daily News and one of the editors of Deadline Artist: America's Greatest Newspaper Columns, wrote an interesting piece for the Huffington Post that suggests that newspapers columns should and will one day be recognized as literature.

It's only a matter of time before the newspaper column takes its rightful place as a recognized and respected form of literature, every bit as vital as its more celebrated cousins, the short story and the novel.

The recognition should have happened a long time ago. An impressive list of literary masters honed their craft writing newspaper columns, including Ernest Hemingway, Langston Hughes, O. Henry, Mark Twain and Damon Runyon. Generations of students have pored over Hughes's poetry, Twain's novels and O. Henry's short stories, unaware that the authors also tackled the issues of the day - death, war, sports, crime, politics - in thoughtful, delightful columns that often hold up remarkably well decades later.

Here is the start of "Chicago Gang War," that a young columnist named Ernest Hemingway penned for the Toronto Star in 1921:
"Anthony d'Andrea, pale and spectacled, defeated candidate for alderman of the 19th ward, Chicago, stepped out of the closed car in front of his residence and, holding an automatic pistol in his hand, backed gingerly up the steps. Reaching back with his left hand to press the door bell, he was blinded by two red jets of flame from the window of the next apartment, heard a terrific roar and felt himself clouted sickeningly in the body with the shock of the slugs from the sawed-off shotgun.
It was the end of the trail that had started with a white-faced boy studying for the priesthood in a little Sicilian town. It was the end of a trail that had wound from the sunlit hills of Sicily across the sea and into the homes of Chicago's nouveau riche. A trail that has led through the penitentiary and out into the deadliest political fight Chicago has ever known."
You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

I've not yet read Deadline Artists, but I'm interested in doing so as I wrote a column for Philadelphia weekly newspapers for 13 years before I took my column online. I was influenced by the many newspaper columnists featured in the book.

You can read a previous post on the best newspaper column of all time via the below link:

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