I talk with the great Chris Jones, the writer and producer of the forthcoming Netflix series "Away," about a piece he did before he got into television, his profile of the magician Teller. Chris is a two-time National Magazine Award winner and his story on Teller is his all-time favorite, the one he keeps returning to and thinking about, even seven years after Esquire published it. It's about magic and storytelling but mostly the eternal fight between what the brain knows and the heart wants.
I got goosebumps talking about this story with Chris. He nearly cried.
When Chris and I weren't emoting all over each other and every listener, we talked stories and magic tricks. A good companion to this episode is Teller performing the trick on which Chris' piece, and our episode, is based. It's called Shadows. It's the most beautiful trick I've seen.
As impressive as Shadows is a trick that took Teller more than 30 years to execute, for the benefit of 12 strangers, who just happened to be in the Reading Room of the British Library at 2:10 pm on June 3rd, 1997. The trick is crazy and "the most amazing thing in the world," Chris told me. When you're done listening to the episode, read the short story that inspired what is not just magic but a glorious act of faith.
Chris and I also talk craft, and outlining stories, which is another way to say, We talk about the biographer Robert Caro. He's the Ur-outliner in non-fiction writing and Chris profiled Caro, though he in no way abides by Caro's rules. This is its own source of fascination in the episode: With each new story Chris writes, he writes the ending first.
We also discuss one of the stories he and I worked on at ESPN and, near the end we talk about this speech he gave in Bucharest on the ways in which storytelling and magic are similar, ideas that were the impetus for this episode.