Tom wolfe writing nonfiction ‘became a great game and a great experiment’ npr electricity projects ks2

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In writing what I thought was a memorandum to a single individual who was about my own age … I had somehow liberated myself from all of the fears and all of the constraints that you feel when you are going to write something as formal as a magazine article for a national audience.

That article became … " The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby," which was the title of my first book. What had happened was, in writing what I thought was a memorandum to a single individual who was about my own age … I had somehow liberated myself from all of the fears and all of the constraints that you feel when you are going to write something as formal as a magazine article for a national audience. I had reached that kind of tone that a lot of people are able to reach in writing a letter to a friend.

It can lead to excesses, particularly in the form of purple prose. It’s a very demanding form and I think a lot of people who try it don’t realize how much reporting you have to do first. Without the information behind it, all of these techniques — which are things like scene-by-scene construction and use of extended passages of dialogue and point of view in the Henry James sense — without the facts, which can only be obtained through reporting, it can really fall flat. … It can become just a verbose technique.

I used to try to fit in. I remember doing a thing on stock car racing. I went down to North Wilkesboro, N.C., … and I wore a green tweed suit and a blue button down shirt and a black neck tie and some brown suede shoes and a brown Borsalino hat. I figured that was really casual.

After about five days, Junior Johnson, whom I was writing about, came to me and he says, "I don’t mean to be rude or anything … but people I’ve known all my life down here … they keep asking me, ‘Junior, who is that little green man following you around?’"

I don’t think it’s an inalienable right of the American press to be cooperated with. You know, most people if they let the press observe them, are striking an implicit bargain. They know that there’s something in it for the press and they feel that there’s something in it for themselves, and I think we might as well be frank about it — it is some kind of bargain.

On whether the people he writes about ever regret allowing him access — for example, those portrayed in his 1970 essay " Radical Chic: That Party at Lenny’s " which mocked white liberals eating fancy hors d’oeuvres at a fundraising party for the Black Panthers at Leonard Bernstein’s house

As a journalist, you have to take the position that … the process of discovery that you are going through is as important — if not more important — than any issue that is involved in the story that you’re writing. Looking back … I think it was important to see exactly how the phenomenon that I called "Radical Chic" worked and what it was all about. …

You can’t afford to be constantly wringing your hands over the impact of what you’re doing, whether you’re talking about the impact on the individuals that you’re writing about, or the impact on the issues that are involved — in this case, support for radical groups in the late 1960s. I was heavily criticized after that for … drying up fundraising for these radical groups among wealthy people, among socialites and in New York. Well, whether I did or I didn’t, I don’t think you can worry about that. I think if you start worrying about that you’re no longer writing, you’re involved in public relations.