Paul Salopek: Off the Beaten Path, On to Literary Success

I am going to swim upstream against the flow of information and try to slow people down to have them observe stories at a human pace—at about three miles per hour.

Paul Salopek’s style is one of calm, quiet bravado and crystal clarity that is the result of processing, analyses and comparisons.

He is a storyteller; but one whose background in journalism provides not just a slice of life, but how that slice of life is part of the entire pie.

To do this, he dives from the comfort zone that we are accustomed to and into the seemingly-alien homes that other people just like us inhabit.

His current project is one that our ancestors endured; one that is taking him through the migrations of our thousands-of-times great grandfathers and into how we live in these regions now.

His commentaries on the Out of Eden Walk are beautifully depicted, but not without perspective.

This December 4th entry he posted last year, “1 Bucket of Wheat= 1 Candy Bar,” observes the meaning of a “bakkal:” a store, a place of respite, and a place where the ancient practice of bartering still thrives. In one article, he explores the role of children in this society, how outsiders view the bartering system, how the people their enjoy the bartering system and value their goods, how they make money, and how even a native of Turkey sees this system and wonders how little he could know about his own country.

And, all this is told in a meager 527 words.

His angle seems to be “a society of bartering.” This is not weaving a story, it is precise needlepoint that creates an immersive environment that both tugs on heartstrings and provides balance.  It introduces conflict without detracting from the circumstances he sees before him.

The ability to see, process, and tell is one that absolutely must be done with tact and balance; not simply finding the right words, but the right delivery.


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