Hilton Als

“When you’re writing a profile, you walk into the situation not as a self, but as a person who is going to give yourself over to the subject. You listen constructively, and you don’t interrupt the emotional panorama of what’s happening. You morph with the storytelling. You’re engaged on a level where you become part of their consciousness.”

-Hilton Als, episode 317 of Talk Easy with Sam Fragoso

Today, we’re joined by Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and critic Hilton Als! To begin, we unpack his approach to writing profiles (5:50), inspired by the words of photographer Diane Arbus (6:10), and how he captured Prince in a new, two-part memoir entitled My Pinup (7:55). Then, Als reflects on his upbringing in Brownsville, Brooklyn (10:25), a timely passage from his 2020 essay “Homecoming” (14:40), and formative works by writers Adrienne Kennedy (20:58) and the late Joan Didion (27:05).

On the back-half, we discuss the interplay of memory and writing (36:38), Hilton’s writing routine (40:55), his sources of hope today (44:30), and to close, a passage from Jean Rhys’ unfinished autobiography Smile Please (48:25).

Original illustration by Krishna ShenoiReference image by Ali Smith.

Subscribe, rate, and review: Apple Podcasts and Spotify