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Talking with John Feinstein

John Feinstein

Readers and journalists value John Feinstein’s shrewd, accurate work as reporter, author, and critic as well as his passion for sports, and, fortunately for us, all of his titles have been audiobooks.

Feinstein is enthusiastic about audiobooks, especially about what they have meant to his children’s development: "We listen with our children to kids’ books when we’re in the car, including the entire Harry Potter series, for example. And there’s a bonus: We notice when we put a book on in the car, they stop fighting!"

Audiobooks are also helpful in getting the children to power down at bedtime. Feinstein and his wife have found there’s a bonus to that listening: "Our children know and understand words that they simply wouldn’t encounter otherwise because they’re not yet at that reading level. It’s the same with music: My young daughter can now identify Mozart, Beethoven, and Bach when she hears them."

The great success of Feinstein’s first book, SEASON ON THE BRINK, the story of basketball coach Bob Knight, then at Indiana University, prompted his publisher to ask him to do the audio version. A tradition was established, and now he records each book as it is published.

"I’ve always felt confident in talking about sports," he observes. "Abridged books can be hard on the author if the abridger doesn’t get everything the author intended. Sometimes, too, there are factual errors, so I’ll stop and say, ‘No, No, that’s not right. Let’s fix it.’ I’ve often redone entire pages because they just weren’t right. I think I have an extra feel for them because I’m reading something that came out of my mind and my heart."

Feinstein is also sensitive about too much extra feeling. "I’ve always been put off by the melodramatic, so I try to stay away from that. There are, however, certain moments that call for extra emotion. When that occurs, you try to bring that emotion forward. But if you do it all the time, it ceases to be effective. Precision is needed, and you have to get it absolutely right."

"I think I’ve always been comfortable reading my own words because—for better or worse—I pretty much write as I talk. But reading and writing are two different experiences, and I’m fortunate that I enjoy doing both." Does he feel the reading helps his writing? "I think it always helps. Sometimes when I read a sentence I’ve written aloud, I say, ‘Uh oh, I think we’d better do that again.’"

Hard work, belief in his subject, concern for his readers. Perhaps that’s why Feinstein’s voice and words are respected and admired by those he writes about, those who read him, and those who hear him. —Louise Collins

JUN/JUL 04

Photo © Phil Hoffman

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