Book Reviews


 Artful Journalism: Essays in the Craft and Magic of True Storytelling

Artful Journalism 2015

Praise for Walt Harrington’s book Artful Journalism:

“If you aspire to do artful journalism, everything you need to know is in this book.” – Jon Franklin, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, journalism professor emeritus, University of Maryland, author of Writing for Story

“For years, I’ve been marveling at Walt Harrington’s work and wondering how he did it. After reading Artful Journalism, I have my answer. Not only is Walt a brilliant writer, he’s a true master of the craft.” – David Finkel, Pulitzer Prize and MacArthur Award winner, author of The Good Soldiers

“Harrington’s essays are as practical as they are artful. He reminds us why we write, and why it matters.” – Joe Mackall, director, Ashland University creative writing program, author of Plain Secrets: An Outsider Among the Amish

“I know of no one who writes with greater insight about the art and craft of narrative nonfiction than Walt Harrington. He is a true master and an inspiration for anyone working in the genre. Now, some of his best writings is collected in a single volume that should find a place on the bookshelves of all of us who care about, and aspire to, artful storytelling.” – Patsy Sims, former director, Goucher College’s MFA program in creative nonfiction, and editor of Literary Nonfiction: Learning by Examplemanship, but also about life.


 Acts of Creation: America’s Finest Hand Craftsmen at Work

ActOfCreation_thum

Praise for Acts of Creation:

“This collection of profiles about great American craftsmen is itself the handiwork of a great American craftsman.” — David Grogan, past editor, This Old House Magazine

Acts of Creation is a lovely collection of literary journalism, written by a master of the form. Walt Harrington’s gracefully nuanced prose, full of feeling and finely observed detail, wonderfully conveys the world of craftsmen in all its artful integrity. In the grand tradition of Tracy Kidder, John McPhee and Joseph Mitchell, Harrington offers us a fascinating and enduring homage to men at work.” — Barry Siegel; Pulitzer Prize winner; author, Manifest Injustice; director of the Literary Journalism Program, University of California, Irvine

Acts of Creation is an example of what happens when a top-notch writer, laboring in solitude with purity of purpose, puts the right words in the right order.”  — Madeleine Blais; Pulitzer Prize winner; author, Uphill Walkers: Portrait of a Family

“This is vintage Walt Harrington: Rigorous reporting, lyrical writing and compelling storytelling. He has a knack of turning the lives of ordinary people into works of art.” — Joe Mackall; author, Plain Secrets: An Outsider Among the Amish; director of the Creative Writing Program, Ashland University

Acts of Creation is a compelling tribute to Americans who work with their hands — and hearts.” — Pete Earley; author, Crazy: A Father’s Search through America’s Mental Health Madness

Acts of Creation is a marvelous book– it celebrates the life dedicated to a purpose that is both practical and transcendent. The carpenters, millwrights, coppersmiths, plasterers, stonemasons and others who inhabit these pages offer humble inspiration to the rest of us, and Walt Harrington’s prose is the very embodiment of master craftsmanship as he explores the deep convictions that motivate it. Put it on your shelf alongside John McPhee, Tracy Kidder and Susan Orlean.” — Philip Gerard; author, The Patron Saint of Dreams; professor in the Department of Creative Writing, UNC, Wilmington

“Simply feel, smell, hear and taste what Walt Harrington does with words in this book . . . and you’ll feel, smell, hear and taste what his 14 geniuses do with wood, copper, stone and iron.” — Gary Smith, four-time National Magazine Award winner, Sports Illustrated

For Acts of Creation, Walt Harrington travels America to understand the nation’s finest hand craftsmen at work, seeking the magical nexus of craft, character and mastery that gives birth to a functional work of art — and leaves its makers with a sense of satisfaction, awe and achievement know well to artists across the ages. A builder of monumental fireplaces in Maine. A cabinet maker in Maryland. A millwright in Virginia. A locksmith and house framer in Ohio. A hardwood floor man in Indiana. A blacksmith in Illinois. A stone carver in California. And many more. The stories of the fourteen craftsmen profiled in Acts of Creation, help us reclaim the place of craftsmanship in a consumerist era that places higher value on profit and branding than it does on dedicated individual excellence. In their fine and useful creations, these craftsmen offer not only lessons about craftsmanship, but also about life.


Next Wave: America’s New Generation of Great Literary Journalists

Praise for Next Wave:

“Some mighty great journalism here. I just wish I had assigned more of it.”  –Graydon Carter, Editor, Vanity Fair

“When young editors (or aspiring editors) ask me where we find writers and reporters at Esquire, I tell them that all you have to do is look. Next Wave is a blueprint for the generation that will follow these writers.”  –David Granger, Editor-in-Chief, Esquire

“And literary journalism was supposed to be dying? This collection is proof positive that ambitious, inspired non-fiction storytellings has life in it yet.”  –Adam Moss, Editor, New York

“Even more than journalism as literature, it rips (and soars) as the truth about the way we live and tell each other who we are.”  –Terry McDonell, Editor, Sports Illustrated

“The collection of young writers in this anthology have ambition and brains and, thankfully, many, many years left of finding the kinds of gems that make us stop what we are doing for the sake of a good read.  –Chad Millman, Editor-in-Chief, ESPN The Magazine

“Next Wave is proof that the gift of telling true stories has been passed triumphantly into the hands of a new generation of storytellers.”  –Jon Franklin, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, author, Writing for Story

“Many of these stories seem destined to become tomorrow’s classics.”  –Patsy Sims, Director, Goucher College MFA program in Creative Nonfiction

“Amid all the hand-wringing and nay-saying about the future of journalism, Next Wave offers abundant, compelling proof that non-fiction literature is fervently alive and well in the hands of a new generation of writers. This book is a worthy successor to such classics as Tom Wolfe’s anthology, The New Journalism.”  –Samuel G. Freedman, award-winning author, columnist, and professor, Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.


The Everlasting Stream: A True Story of Rabbits, Guns, Friendship, and Family

Everlasting Stream

Praise for The Everlasting Stream:

“… This does for hunting what A River Runs Through It did for fly-fishing.”  — Publishers Weekly

“Magical … Exquisite … A gentle and lyrical book that does for rabbits what Cormac McCarthy did for horses.” –Chicago Tribune

“This beautifully written book is about life’s true values…. Read it and count your blessings.” — President George H. W. Bush

When his father-in-law first took him hunting on his Kentucky farm, Walt Harrington had never shot a rabbit. A high-profile Washington Post reporter with a taste for manicures and expensive suits, he felt silly in his borrowed hunting gear, not quite knowing how to hold the shotgun Alex had given him as a gift. And he worried about whether he would get along with Alex’s hunting buddies — three rough-edged African-American country men who seemed to have nothing in common with the white city slicker. Little did he know that over the next twelve years of Thanksgiving hunting trips, these four “good ol’ boys” would change not only his opinions about hunting, but his feelings about the things that mattered to him most.

In crisp, poetic prose that brings autumn mornings crackling alive, The Everlasting Stream shares the lessons that led Harrington to a new notion of the good life. Even as he enjoyed dinner at the White House with foreign leaders and political heavyweights, he found himself longing for the hills and hollows that Alex, Bobby, Lewis and Carl knew almost as well as the calls of their dogs. Over hard-won shots of bourbon and a steady stream of wisecracks (especially about the time he nicked his father-in-law with a shotgun pellet), Harrington came to appreciate the value of old-fashioned friendship and masculinity, the complexities of guilt and responsibility, and the enduring magic of memorable moments. When his son turned twelve, Harrington began to take him hunting too, believing his suburban boy would benefit from spending time in the forests and fields, feeling the complex emotions of killing an animal for sport and food, and from seeing his grandfather with men whose idea of love and friendship always put actions before words.

By turns witty, revelatory and profoundly elegant, The Everlasting Stream reminds us of the small and not-so-small things we must treasure in our lives.


The Beholder’s Eye: A Collection of America’s Finest Personal Journalism

Praise for The Beholder’s Eye:

The Beholder’s Eye“Not just some of the country’s finest personal journalism, but some of its finest journalism, period.”  –Kirkus Reviews

“Although there is a rule that journalism must be written in the third person, great journalists such as Pyle, Orwell, Agee, Plimpton and Hunter S. Thompson have all, at one time or another, been characters in their own stories, people with personalities that shaped what they saw and reported, who were touched and changed by the experiences about which they wrote.

“These pieces represent the very best of an increasing trend toward personal narrative: Mike Sager stalking Marlon Brando in the Tahitian jungle; J.R. Moehringer’s quest to discover the true identity of an old boxer; Bill Plaschke’s story about a woman with cerebral palsy who runs a Los Angeles Dodgers web site nobody reads; Scott Anderson’s story of his lifetime of covering war after war, Barbara Ehrenreich’s story of her struggle to understand the social and personal meaning of suffering with cancer; Adam Gopnik’s story of his relationship with his aging and oblique Freudian psychiatrist, and Harrington’s own tale of his family’s struggle to persevere.”  — Grove Atlantic


Crossings: A White Man’s Journey into Black America

CrossingsPraise for Crossings:

“Honest and devoid of flackery … so different from what we’re used to reading about blacks that it seems almost subversive.”  — Atlantic Monthly

“A message in a bottle floated out to white America about black America’s remarkable diversity and resilience.”  — New York Newsday

One day in the dentist’s office, journalist Walt Harrington heard a casual racist joke that left him enraged. Married to a black woman, Harrington was the father of two biracial children. His experience in the dentist’s office made him realize not only that the joke was about his own children but also that he really knew very little about what it was like to be a black person in America.

After this rude awakening, Harrington set off on a 25,000-mile journey through black America, talking with scores of black and white people along the way, including an old sharecropper, a city police chief, a jazz trumpeter, a convicted murdered, a welfare mother and a corporate mogul. In Crossings, winner of the Gustavus Myers Award for the Study of Human Rights, Harrrington shares what he learned as he traveled and listened.


Intimate Journalism

Intimate Journalism book.An exemplary text for courses in feature writing, magazine, and literary journalism, Intimate Journalism introduces students to the cutting-edge art of combining traditional feature writing with deep journalistic inquiry. This collection of award-winning articles elevates human interest reporting to new heights in the literary journalism field. In a detailed, hands-on, practical primer on in-depth human interest reporting, editor Walt Harrington prefaces this outstanding collection by sharing the trade secrets from his many years as a staff writer for The Washington Post Magazine. Fifteen articles follow, each containing fascinating examples of evocative human reporting by some of the most artful journalists in America. Each article is followed by an invaluable afterword from each journalist describing how he or she conceptualized, reported and wrote their particular story.

In this passionate and intense volume, Harrington gives journalists inspiration and guidance on how to turn ordinary life into extraordinary journalism. A must for students and teachers of journalism, for budding magazine and newspaper writers, and for professional journalists who wish to be re-inspired by the superb reporting, distinctive writing and sound advice found in this text.


At the Heart of It

Praise for At the Heart of IAt the Heart of Itt:

“What’s extraordinary about these people isn’t so much their lives as the way Harrington profiles them. In 16 pieces originally published in the Washington Post Magazine, the award-winning journalist and author of Crossings: A White Man’s Journey into Black America, displays a storyteller’s ability to find the drama and pathos in seemingly mundane materials. Yet unlike Oprah, Rickie, Geraldo and other electronic purveyors of what oozes its way under the rubric of “human interest,: Harrington neither demeans nor trivializes. Readers will sense the respect he feels for the young father and mother living ‘in the American netherworld between poverty and the middle class’ as they celebrate a new job with a bottle of Manischewitz Concord Grape wine and a dinner of grilled hot dog and cheese sandwiches, macaroni and cheese and a tossed salad. The same is true of his compassion for a group of suburban 13-year-old girls learning to play soccer ‘with the abandon of boys,’ as they ‘sweat like roadside ditchdiggers, their T-shirt sleeves rolled up over their shoulders.’ Although his subjects include a few better-known sorts (including poet Rita Dove), most of the people here are the sort that the media tends to overlook. It is Harrington’s gift as a writer that makes their stories equally compelling and unforgettable.”  — Publishers Weekly

“When I picked up Walt Harrington’s collection of his profiles from The Washington Post Magazine, I’ll admit it was rather dutifully (he’s going to be speaking at a conference I’m attending), and I didn’t expect to become such a fan. I brought a prejudice of “just a newspaper article,” not expecting the impact of anything born of a such a transient outlet (today’s news, tomorrow’s fishwrap) to outlast the day, or at best a week. But Harrington raises his sights higher — and lower. With one exception (the sensitive portrait of U.S. poet laureate Rita Dove, so evocative of a poet’s thought process that I made copies for all my poet friends), he writes about people not normally considered “important” enough to make it into mass circulation. For example, Harrington’s humane curiosity portrays the real-world struggles between an elderly African-American minister, once strong and dominant, and his daughters who now take care of him, portraying without judgment their struggles with anger, their seeking compassion and not always finding it. Harrington’s psychology and insight are amazing as he examines the ‘ordinary people, extraordinary lives’ of his subtitle, such as a couple who has managed to create a marriage in which they equally share the childrearing, or of another couple who have slid into near poverty, or the life-changing experience for girls who participate in a competitive high school soccer team…  With almost every portrait, we both learn about a few individual people we’d likely never have had the opportunity to meet, and we also learn a larger lesson — about the sociology of a section of people, or about the dynamics of family.”  — Ann Sieber


 American Profiles

American ProfilesPraise for American Profiles:

“Walt Harrington is a clear, lucid, sometimes quite compelling writer. He touches on the important social, cultural, and racial issues of our time. He is not only a good essayist, but a clear-headed, thoughtful observer of people and their manner of being with one another.”  — Robert Coles

A collection of Walt Harrington’s early articles written when he was a staff writer for The Washington Post Magazine. The book includes an author’s Introduction and Afterword about the elaborate journalistic craft and magic of reporting and writing memorable and insightful human portraits.