February 4th, 2014
Episode 357 of 447 episodes
This week in the magazine, Ariel Levy profiles the endurance swimmer Diana Nyad. Here, Levy speaks with Sasha Weiss about her piece and her interests as a writer. Levy has written about several female athletes, including the runner Caster Semenya and the boxer Claressa Shields, but says she's not really a sports fan. "Female athletes interest me because what you're talking about is strength and power," Levy says. "And that takes a certain amount of chutzpah to be female and say, 'I'm going to cultivate strength and speed and power and physical prowess.' So, from a sort of feminist point of view, that excites me." Levy has written about a range of subjects, including fashion, radical lesbian separatists, exotic cat breeding, and Silvio Berlusconi. Weiss asks if she sees herself as having a particular beat, and Levy says that, to some extent, she writes about gender and sexuality, but that that's only a starting point. A good story also needs a strong dramatic arc, Levy says, as well as a counterintuitive element, something that you don't see coming. "The trick is to find those things with a great story," she says. "It's no good, just, 'I'm going to go for a wallow in the sex and gender mud.' If there's no weird, crazy story, then it's just mud." Levy and Weiss also talk about how she finds the crucial twists in her stories, and about her recent personal account in the magazine about having a miscarriage while on a reporting assignment in Mongolia, what it was like for her to write about that experience, and what the response has been.