I'll admit, prior to J-School (super hip journo lingo for Graduate School of Journalism), I didn't know his work, or even his name. Being a writer, that's sad, I know. But during my time here I've had a number of his works assigned as readings, and I've tracked down some of his other work on my own as well. The guy is the master of long-form features. He sees and notices things most wouldn't pinpoint. Minute details that seem irrelevant, but that add so much to his work. He's written about some of the premiere celebrities of his day, people who had been under the spotlight for years, and yet, he writes his stories in a way that conveys a different side of them. A side no one knew or had taken notice of. He had an eye for what mattered in a scene and a sense of how to effectively select the necessary pieces to convey the most accurate account of those he wrote on.
I've got a ways to go before I'm a quarter of the writer Mr. Talese was, but it's certainly something to strive for. I could start by increasing the artistic merit of my outlines. Below is Telese's outline for one of his greatest pieces, "Frank Sinatra Has a Cold." He wrote it in 1966 for Esquire, and just recently the magazine named it the finest piece that had ever run in its pages. That's saying quite a lot considering the who's-who list of writers who've had their bylines appear in the editorial well.