Thursday, March 13, 2008

Best Things I Learned from Tom Wolfe Tonight

UPDATE Visit Jeff's blog for more on Mr. Wolfe's appearance, including an essential fashion evaluation.

These are the things Tom Wolfe taught me tonight when I went to see him be interviewed for the internet at Barnes & Noble:
  • The four requirements of good fiction (and, therefore, good New Journalism) are:
    • That the action or events move scene by scene
    • Dialogue
    • A distinct point of view
    • Notation of status details (certainly won't find this missing from a Wolfe story)
  • Also, writing must be an act of discovery and that this act of discovery was more important than any other work that a man can do.
  • What "informational compulsion" is (what it is is a term Wolfe invented for when we know something that other people don't know and when we find ourselves in situations where the other people need this information we practically can't wait to share the information with them because it makes us feel so powerful)
  • That he absolutely considers himself a reporter first and that it's the duty of the reporter to "shut up and listen."
  • Wolfe said that the United States is filled with so much weird stuff that if you lived anywhere in the United States for more than 30 days you'd wind up with more bizarre stories than you could handle.
  • Which makes me think that maybe Tom Wolfe should try living in the MTC for a month.
  • When the interviewer asked him what he thought of the Spitzer scandal and how it seems like it could have come right out of the Bonfire of the Vanities, Wolfe said "With novels you have a real problem because in a novel things have to be plausible"
  • The mention of Spitzer's fall lead Wolfe to opine on the 7 Deadly Sins. Wolfe shared his belief that each of these sins were sins against oneself and a defiling of that which God had made and that it is utterly tragic to waste the self.
  • Wolfe read a nice-sized excerpt from his new novel-in-progress, "Back to Blood" (a term he actually uses in the opening scene of the Bonfire of the Vanities). Back to Blood is a novel about Miami and all the cultures and races that occupy it. The excerpt he read dealt with the wife of the Publisher (or perhaps Editor-in-Chief?) of the Miami Herald getting into a verbal altercation with a wealthy Cuban woman that stole her spot in a parking lot. It didn't seem terribly unusual for Wolfe.
  • After reading the excerpt he winked at his wife. She had crutches. She was sitting in the row in front of me. I was in the third row, which was the first row for people who weren't VIPs.
  • He talked about something called the Objectivity of Egoism. I'll have to listen to the internet broadcast of the interview to be reminded of what the Objectivity of Egoism is, but I think it has to do with being so in love with being an observer that you detach yourself so well from your subject because you want to be perfectly objective so badly...something along those lines.
  • Wolfe said that "if you tell the truth, you'll be called a Conservative."
  • That said, Wolfe also said that you can check the voting records, he's down as Independent.
  • Wolfe loves Argentine music, even the melodica
This wasn't the first time I'd seen Wolfe talk. Two and a half years ago I heard him at Cooper Union and did a much more dutiful job of reporting on it. Check it.

1 comment:

JayMoo and Stephoin said...

Tom Wolfe and I are like the exact same person.