Tom Wolfe on material

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  • #16
    Re: reviews

    I think--knowing something of Wolfe's procedure--that he believes material comes from research: observation, interviews, etc. He's a journalist more than a novelist, part of the "nonfiction novel" movement begun by Truman Capote's In Cold Blood. (Though I would include Norman Mailer's excellent The Executioner's Song--a very different kind of book--in that category.)

    Wolfe has always prided himself on being cutting-edge, though this time, since his revelations are limited to "college kids drink and have sex", he seems woefully behind the times. In other words: duh? Were this a first novel it probably wouldn't have been published.

    Material comes from one's experience. Writers who start young tend to know what it's like to be a writer--a life that has its own rhythm and, most significantly, its fair share of solitude and isolation. (Which is why a lot of young writers--I did it, too--write novels about writers writing novels.)

    Marriage, parenthood, loss--all contribute to the notion of "material". These provide a matrix to the imagination. I have experienced materially very little of what I've written in my novels and scripts: I didn't live in the South of France in 1935, or in Occupied Paris; I wasn't a widow or a Russian translator; I wasn't a detective or the painter Vermeer. But the core experience is mine. Tolstoy once said something to the effect that we read fiction not for the facts but for the truth of things, and I think, no matter the setting or the goodness or badness of our characters, we can lend our fictions the veracity of our own experiences.

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    • #17
      Natural born talent

      "I don't believe in natural born talent."

      You have to ignore a mountain of evidence to take that position. There are many, many people who dedicate themselves to being the best at what they do and work hard at their skill or talent. The ones who are "naturals" can beat them, often without breaking a sweat. People indeed are given different "gifts."

      There are the gifted ones. Einstein had a gift. The list goes on and on.

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