John Richard Hersey (June 17, 1914 – March 24, 1993) was a Pulitzer Prize-winning American writer and journalist considered one of the earliest practitioners of the so-called New Journalism, in which storytelling techniques of fiction are adapted to non-fiction reportage. Hersey’s account of the aftermath of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, was adjudged the finest piece of American journalism of the 20th century by a 36-member panel associated with New York University’s journalism department.
Hersey on writing Hiroshima said:
“I felt I would like to write about what happened not to buildings but to human beings.”
“Hiroshima” was written in a dry, calm manner that struck some readers as emotionless but permitted the survivors’ stories to speak for themselves. Forty years after he wrote the article, Hersey said in a letter to historian Paul Boyer, “The flat style was deliberate, and I still think I was right to adopt it. A high literary manner, or a show of passion, would have brought me into the story as a mediator; I wanted to avoid such mediation, so the reader’s experience would be as direct as possible.”
Did You Know
Hersey’s article was the inspiration behind Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat
His article about the dullness of grammar school readers in a 1954 issue of Life magazine, “Why Do Students Bog Down on First R? A Local Committee Sheds Light on a National Problem: Reading” was the inspiration for Dr. Seuss’s juvenile story The Cat in the Hat.