Thursday Recommendation: A Pickpocket’s Tale

A Pickpocket’s Tale

Source: The New Yorker


This isn’t a piece of fiction, but it reads like one.

I started reading this yesterday out of sheer boredom. I had little interest in the subject matter and plenty of more interesting things I could have spent my time on.

But I recommend this very long article this week because the writing is so god damn good that I read every single word. It took a while. No doubt about that. But I defy you to start reading this and manage to stop yourself.

I also recommend this because the way the writer held my attention is the same way their subject, a master pickpocket, would hold my attention. They kept moving the “spotlight,” shifting from present day to backstory to recent past. It read like a string of increasingly interesting anecdotes. At the same time, the “moving of the spotlight” was executed so smoothly I hardly noticed, even with large, bold section breaks.

There’s a lot to learn from the way this article is written, regardless of your opinion on the subject matter (also fascinating, btw, but perhaps not for everyone). Most importantly:

  • How to make plain writing elegant and beautiful
  • How to say a lot in the minimum number of words possible
  • How to move people’s attention without losing, boring or annoying them
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