“What [feature writers] had in common was that they all regarded the newspaper as a motel you checked into overnight on the road to the final triumph. The idea was to get a job on a newspaper, keep body and soul together, pay the rent, get to know “the world,” accumulate “experience,” perhaps work some of the fat off your style—then, at some point, quit cold, say goodbye to journalism, move into a shack somewhere, work night and day for six months, and light up the sky with the final triumph. The final triumph was known as The Novel.”
Tom Wolfe, from “The Birth of ‘The New Journalism’; Eyewitness Report”
I started reading The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe, and what I find ironic is that he doesn’t use the New Journalism style to write it. It’s not bad writing mind you — hey, it was a bestseller that was turned into a major movie starring Bruce Willis. I’m certainly not here to criticize.
But the passage above and the article it is from may shed some light on Wolfe’s approach. He obviously was one of those feature writers to whom he refers, having written a few books — novels included — himself. So when he went into “novel writing mode” he obviously employed what he thought to be the novel writing style of the day.
I say it’s ironic because he consciously or unconsciously spent so many years applying novel-writing tactics to writing features that you almost expect he’d turn around and use that same voice in his novel. But he doesn’t. One of the guys who “wouldn’t write straight” in his day job approached novel writing totally straight. Maybe there was a reverence for the craft, maybe he simply wanted to develop a whole new style of writing. And all the power to him. No matter what the reason.
I find it curious though. And I can’t help but wonder if perhaps there was a very good reason for not employing the type of style I’m trying to develop for my own novel…
Actually, maybe it’s better this way. Leaves it wide open for me. (At least that’s the way I’m going to spin it…)
(Novel Writing Totals)
Hours Today: 1
Words Today: 1,645
Hours Total: 74.5
Words Total: 101,646