Having written for the New Yorker, National Geographic, Harper's, Sports Illustrated, the New York Times Magazine, Runners World, O: The Oprah Magazine, and many other high-profile publications — and having spent years at the Washington Post, including a stint as the paper's South American bureau chief — Cynthia Gorney knows how to conduct an interview. She has done it for print media and as a host on KQED's "Forum." She has won awards for it and she teaches it at UC Berkeley, where she is a professor at the Graduate School of Journalism. She knows the main rules — don't talk too much, don't interrupt — and the subtler touches. But when she interviews San Francisco Chronicle columnist Jon Carroll at the Berkeley Repertory Theater (2025 Addison St., Berkeley) on March 23, the task will be easier than usual, because she'll be interviewing an old friend.
"We became pals 25 years ago," Gorney says, "when I was writing a piece about my son, who was then two years old ... and was turning into a complete flaming boy. Even though I was trying to raise him gender-neutral," as befitted the politically correct Berkeley parent, a turning point came when the toddler ripped a waffle into the shape of a gun.
"I was kind of stumped," Gorney laughs, about how to weave the personal and political together in her story, to set the little picture within the big one. At that time, Carroll was the editor of California magazine. Gorney was a fan, recognizing even then that "he is one of those few people in the world who is incapable of writing a bad sentence." So she called him — "I said, 'I'm your adoring little acolyte'" — and asked for help. "I don't remember what he said, but it turned out to be right." At the Rep, the pair will discuss a range of current topics. Preceded by a cheese and no-host wine reception in the lobby, the event is a benefit for Oakland's Park Day School.
Gorney has just returned from India, where she was working on a National Geographic story about child brides. She will soon visit the Middle East and Africa to continue working on this story. "Child marriage in India is not what we Americans tend to think it is," she says. In India — where the practice is illegal, but still occurs — girls are officially wed in infancy or prepuberty but do not begin married life until their late teens. Gorney interviewed a seventeen-year-old who was married at eight and a thirteen-year-old who had managed to circumvent the wedding that her parents had planned for her when she was eleven. As for the Berkeley-based journalist's own son: His waffle-gun days long over, he works for the Oakland School System. "He's extremely manly," Gorney says, "and very kind." 7 p.m., $25. ParkDaySchool.org
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