Tracy Kidder: can a writer be a social activist?
Prize-winning journalist Tracy Kidder wrote a popular book on social activist Paul Farmer. But how involved should he have become in promoting Farmer's work?
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Someone once said to me something about how I’d been really lucky about a book I’d written, and that kind of bothered me, because I don’t think it was about that. But it’s about writing itself. All stories are created. There’s a lot to do. You need to get to the point where your hands don’t show. Someone once said to me that if you get good as a writer you develop your own style, and if you get very good you learn how to hide it – which is as good a definition of art as any.
Do you see yourself as actively working for social change and human rights as a writer? I know you have direct links on your website for people to support Partners in Health and Village Health Works…
The notion that good writing can try to make changes in the world was never mine. If I had tried to write about Paul Farmer with a burning desire to change issues of poverty and disease, to make people care about those issues – I think it would have been a terrible flop. What I thought was that I had an interesting story, and I wanted to tell it as well as I could. I came to feel that art was possible with nonfiction stories.
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