Tim Cahill (YGtCTO Words #31)

A Wolverine Is Eating My Leg

Book written by Tim Cahill

If there is any writer out there whose career I would have liked to have had, then Tim Cahill would be that person. I discovered him through his travel writing in the late 80s, when he had two collections published: A Wolverine Is Eating My Leg and Jaguars Ripped My Flesh: Adventure is a Risky Business. Outside magazine had been publishing for some time by then and a lot of the pieces in those collections originated there. Up until then, I thought the best way to document travel was with a camera. People did not read National Geographic magazine, did they? They skimmed the pictures, right? Outside offered a slew of writers who changed my assumptions before the current boom in expensive travel (or just dressing in travel gear for your walk around the city).

As it so happens, I may have previously read articles by Tim Cahill when he wrote for Rolling Stone. Since then, maybe when he wrote for Slate. Of course, he stays busy.

I really do not spend enough time writing. Or seeking adventure.

Tim Cahill

Like Lester Bangs,

Cahill places himself in the reportage. He does not bury his reactions in the text. Most newspaper stores were (and remain) bland. Even today when we talk about how partisan and infotainment our news is, the facts are often pretty straightforward. Certainly, we can go philosophical and talk about how the news was always a limited medium (only so many pages or minutes- or advertising to fund the news) which meant that we were receiving the editors’ opinion of what we wanted to know. Or we could go historical and talk about how the newsstand has always made room for the noisiest tabloid (and the sports pages at most papers made room for purple prose once upon a time). Bangs and Cahill read those and the op-ed pieces and the columnists and (with a host of others) helped birth new journalism.

Maybe I like it because the art is showing. We hold journalists in higher esteem for their craft than their art. That impending deadline never stops demanding words. Magazines supposedly offer the luxury of time, but the stories still need to be delivered some time or they expire.

The other thing that gets lost when we talk about journalism as art is that it relies on our most basic form of communication, while we think of art as some sort of elevated communication, centered more at our heart than our brain. After all, everyone uses words. How hard can it be to do a little reporting? I think the profusion of online lists masquerading as journalism makes it clear that actual journalism is not easy.

Lastly, as a reward for reading this far, let me offer you the funniest piece of journalism that I have ever read. Tim Cahill did not write it, but I never would have seen it without discovering him first. Sometimes, serendipity is a fine guide.

What’s it all about?

You’ve Got to Check This Out is a blog series about music, words, and all sorts of artistic matters. It started with an explanation. 208 more to go.

New additions to You’ve Got to Check This Out release regularly. Also, free humor, short works, and poetry post irregularly. Receive notifications on Facebook by friending or following Craig.

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