The son of two writers, John Berendt grew up in Syracuse, New York. He
earned a B.A. in English from Harvard University, where he worked on the staff of The
Harvard Lampoon. After graduating in 1961, he moved to New York City to pursue a career in
publishing. Berendt has written for David Frost and Dick Cavett, was editor of New York
magazine from 1977 to 1979, and wrote a monthly column for Esquire from 1982 to
Berendt first traveled to Savannah in the early 1980s. Over the ensuing eight years his visits became more frequent and extended, until he was spending more time in Savannah than in New York.
Part of the appeal, Berendt says, lay in the city's penchant for morbid gossip.
Since the publication and unprecedented success of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Berendt has become a Savannah celebrity and was even presented with the key to the city.
The City of Fallen Angels was published in 2005.
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A Conversation with John Berendt
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and The City of Falling Angels
both multi-list bestsellers and widely acclaimed books. Have you been surprised
by their success? What do you think attracts people to your work?
My best guess is that what appeals to readers most in both books are the characters. Time magazine said I had become "a state-of-the-art weirdo magnet." What they meant was that the people I write about tend to be very strange. They are, in fact, eccentrics. I love eccentrics. I see them as artists. Their masterpieces are their own lives.
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil marked your style of nonfiction as unique and groundbreaking. Now, The City of Falling Angels brings Venice alive for readers the way Midnight did for Savannah, Georgia. What do you think the major hallmarks of your writing style are?
I write in the form of what has been called, the New Journalism, or Narrative Nonfiction, or even Literary Nonfiction. Simply put, I write true stories in the style of short stories and novels. I use the literary techniques of fiction writers: extended dialogue, detailed descriptions, the imposition of a narrative structure ...
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