Infatuated as ever with not-quite-current books, I just finished Janet Malcolm's wonderful study of writer and subject, The Journalist and the Murderer. It opens with a killer first line, but I'll quote the entire opening graf because it is just that good:
Every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible. He is a kind of confidence man, preying on people's vanity, ignorance, or loneliness, gaining their trust and betraying them without remorse. Like the credulous widow who wakes up one day to find the charming young man and all her savings gone, so the consenting subject of a piece of nonfiction writing learns--when the article or book appears-- his hard lesson. Journalists justify their treachery in various ways according to their temperments. The more pompous talk about freedom of speech and "the public's right to know"; the least talented talk about Art; the seemliest murmer about earning a living.
I'd like to think there is another way, but she has a point, and illustrates it so beautifully with the story of a young, hungover freelancer's impetuous indulgence in William Styron's especially expensive-and-hard-to-get-saved-for-a-special-occasion crab meat. I also just started John McPhee's Coming into the Country, and in an uncharacteristic turn toward the contemporary, courtesy of Mr. Borondy, Horse: How the Horse Has Shaped Civilization by J. Edward Chamberlin.