Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The nuance of profile writing: Stephen Henighan takes on John Ralston Saul

I'm a little behind on my magazine/periodical reading, but there is one article that I wanted to share with you from what is now no longer the current issue of the The Walrus: this piece by Stephen Henighan profiling John Ralston Saul is probably one of the best examples of feature writing I've seen in a long time.

Sadly, most magazine writers have only two speeds when it comes to profile writing: hagiography or snark. In this piece, Henighan shows us how important nuance and balance is when tackling a profile subject. You never feel that he's shilling for or idealizing Saul. At the same time, when Henighan does go after the various shortcomings of much of Saul's fiction, it doesn't come off catty or undermine Saul's value as a subject. The balance and tone are just right. Magazine writers could learn a lot from this article in particular, and Stephen Henighan in general.

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