William Zinsser

William Zinsser, a New York City newspaperman turned freelance magazine writer who had reinvented himself as a teacher of writing. ...
What Bill Zinsser had to offer was unlike anything else in the Yale course catalogue. He had arrived in 1970 ...
Officially, “Nonfiction Workshop” was a residential-college seminar, independent of the English department or any other department. Before long, word got around about this cheerful fellow Zinsser, not another eyebrow-arching pipe smoker in an elbow-patched tweed jacket but a real professional craftsman who had sneaked in the side entrance of the academy from the real world. Actually, Bill did own a tweed jacket (or maybe it was polished twill), and he favored button-down shirts, narrow neckties, unfancy shoes, and unironic hats (felt Borsalino or straw Panama). He wore glasses and was slightly built, a pleasant-looking, engaging, well-mannered optimist steeped in the tribal codes of privileged Wasp self-effacement.
We met for two hours every Thursday afternoon in a comfortably furnished lounge in Calhoun College. In that room, we mostly listened, as Bill read, along with examples from his own work, passages from writers I’d read but hadn’t properly considered (Thoreau, Orwell, Twain, E. B. White, Red Smith), or knew of but hadn’t much read (Mencken, Perelman, Wills, Didion, Talese). Some I already revered for their supreme coolness (Norman Mailer, Hunter Thompson, Tom Wolfe). Others, previously unknown to me (Alan Moorehead, Michael Arlen, Joseph Mitchell), proved to be more enduring influences. Mark Singer, newyorker.

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