Phillip Gourevitch is one of my favorite reporters. Ten, eleven years ago I screwed up the courage to tell him that. We were both at the KGB Bar in New York, getting drunk in that careless haphazard weekday way, and I watched him across the room for a long time before I got the courage to march over and tell him that I loved his work. I was just a kid at the time and he has the air of a man who is used to women fawning all over him, but instead of shining me on he launched into this long discussion about Rwanda, and about reporting, and the whole thing was so intense and lovely and curious that I couldn’t help wondering if he was like that all the time or just went deep when he happened to be under the influence.
It turns out that he’s like that all the time, and that unfathomable energy for storytelling is probably why he’s so good at what he does. This new interview with him takes on three of my favorite topics — the mythological greatness of James Brown, the biblical story of Jonah, and the limitations and possibilities of photography. If only he could be my regular drinking buddy.