the guardian Fri 01 April 2011
Listening to his mother provide an understanding ear to the customers in the family dress shop, the young Talese realised that "their pauses, their evasions" were as telling as the information and opinions they willingly offered up. This collection of essays show Talese's gift for filling in the gaps, most strikingly on his garlanded 1966 Esquire article "Frank Sinatra Has a Cold", a profile written from the sidelines of the irascible singer's empire. It's hard to imagine that a face-to-face interview would have been more revealing than Talese's observations from the studio margins and nightclub shadows: "A part of Sinatra, no matter where he is, is never there." Magic tricks and crossed wires characterise an encounter between Fidel Castro and Muhammad Ali, while in an essay about the aging Joe Louis, the most painfully revealing moment comes through a meeting with the boxer's ex-wife and her new husband. These are the ripples and repercussions common to every life and Talese uses them to get to the heart of the matter.