This Week’s Best Profile(s)

Two for one this week, an oldie and a newbie, both goodies. There’s a theme, too. First, the oldie – Charles Pierce on the 21-year old deity that was Tiger Woods, for GQ (reprinted here, for a rather unexplained reason, at Esquire):

There is no place in the gospel of the church of Tiger Woods for jokes like this one:

Why do two lesbians always get where they’re going faster than two gay guys?

Because the lesbians are always going sixty-nine.

Is that blasphemous?

Is it?

It is an interesting question, one that was made sharper when Tiger looked at me and said, “Hey, you can’t write this.”

“Too late,” I told him, and I was dead serious, but everybody laughed because everybody knows there’s no place in the gospel of Tiger for these sorts of jokes. And Tiger gave the photographer his hour, and we were back in the car with Vincent and heading back toward Tiger’s mother’s house. “Well, what did you think of the shoot?” Tiger asks, yawning, because being ferried by a limousine and being handled by beautiful women and being photographed for a magazine cover that will get him laid 296 times in the next year, if he so chooses, can be very exhaustive work. “The key to it,” he says, “is to give them a time and to stick to it. If I say I’m there for an hour, I’m there, on time, for an hour. If they ask for more, I say, ‘Hell, fuck no.’ And I’m out of there.”

Hell, fuck no?

Is that blasphemous?

Is it?

And from last week, Kelefa Sanneh on the pretty racist, mostly fascist, sort of hatemongering, definitely crazy-sounding Michael Savage in The New Yorker (subscription required…just go buy it):

Savage abhors animal cruelty (though not as much as he abhors the animal-rights movement), and, as many listeners know, his interest in the natural world predates his identity as a firebrand: he is a scientist by training, and before he became a talk-show host he was the author of more than a dozen books on alternative medicine. Somehow, the years of research made him not a chipper health nut but a melancholy fatalist, all too aware that every day brings with it a new dose of poison fore his beleaguered body. “Theoretically when I get off the air I should go run, I should walk, I should bicycle, I should do a treadmill,” he told his listeners, while lamenting that he never followed his own advice. He offered a synopsis of the night before: “The worst thing you could do is go to dinner. I went to dinner. The second-worst thing you could do is have two drinks. I had two beers. The third-worst thing you could do is come right home and watch television. I came right home and watched television. I didn’t sleep another minute last night. One nightmare after another.” He sighed. “I’ll do the same thing again tonight.”

What do they both have in common? Neither was particularly well-received by certain groups: Tiger-lovers (i.e. everyone) were miffed by Pierce’s construction of the theretofore untouchable Woods as a regular 21-year old frat brother with an ungodly smooth backswing; liberals can’t much stand thinking that a conservative talking head of undeniably vulgar quality (Sanneh notes as much) could possibly have a, well, human side. He does. Tiger did too. That’s what makes these profiles so illuminating and engaging and enlightening.

It’s one thing to just go write contrarian profiles for the hell of it (Esquire, for all its wondrous experimentation, is a prime offender). It’s quite another to write a story that actually tells us something about a people and the truth and life.


One response to “This Week’s Best Profile(s)

  1. Incidentally, I wrote something similar about a 2005 Atlantic profile of not-quite–Savage esque-but-still-pretty-bad-radio-host John Ziegler by David Foster Wallace. ( The piece was well-received by me; Ziegler is still slime, though.

    Is the Savage piece before or after the giant Siberia article that I desperately want to finish but probably won’t? I’m so used to getting my Saneh in 200-word chunks; it’ll be interesting to see what he does in the long form.

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