If there’s such a thing as a good thing to come from Prince’s death (there isn’t) it’s a lesson in journalism. Numerous profiles have resurfaced by people who failed to get their interview and wrote their thing anyway. In 1991, GQ’s Chris Heath walked around Paisley Park for six days waiting for Prince to call. (Wesley Morris wrote my pick of the tributes in the New York Times and talked about how funny he was. People forget Prince was funny.)
This 1974 profile was written shortly after the death of Christine Chubbuck, the anchorwoman who killed herself live on TV. It’s about a person wanting to be seen, pieced together by interviews with people who barely looked before or after the gunshot. “[Chubbuck’s] suicide put station WXLT-TV on the map. [The station’s owner, Robert Nelson,] proudly showed his collections of clippings about it to a visitor. ‘We got the whole front page of The Daily News,’ he boasted.”
I’ll never have a beer again without thinking of this Robert Coover short story in the New Yorker. It’s like one of those infomercials where they put all your winter knits into a plastic bag with a vacuum seal. It takes 1,083 words to suck the air right out of you.