Robert Caro and a few “tricks” when interviewing someone

Here is a brief excerpt from an article by Robert Caro for The New Yorker. To read the complete article, check out others, and obtain subscription information, please click here.

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In interviews, silence is the weapon, silence and people’s need to fill it—as long as the person isn’t you, the interviewer. Two of fiction’s greatest interviewers—Georges Simenon’s Inspector Maigret and John le Carré’s George Smiley—have little devices they use to keep themselves from talking and to let silence do its work. Maigret cleans his ever-present pipe, tapping it gently on his desk and then scraping it out until the witness breaks down and talks. Smiley takes off his eyeglasses and polishes them with the thick end of his necktie. As for me, I have less class. When I’m waiting for the person I’m interviewing to break a silence by giving me a piece of information I want, I write “SU” (for Shut Up!) in my notebook. If anyone were ever to look through my notebooks, he would find a lot of “SU”s.

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Here is a direct link to the complete article, The Secrets of Lyndon Johnson’s Archives: On a Presidential paper trail.

Robert Caro is an American journalist and author known for his celebrated biographies of United States political figures Robert Moses and Lyndon B. Johnson. To learn more about him and his work, please click here.

 

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