Journalist, novelist and provocateur Tom Wolfe joins James Rosen for a frank discussion.
- Duration 25:11
- Date Feb 4, 2013
Journalist, novelist and provocateur Tom Wolfe joins James Rosen for a frank discussion.
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I'm your host James Rosen and Washington.
Our hiatus was made a bit longer for which we apologize by the need for this studio but when my gut Fox News colleagues.
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Now about this guest this struggling young writer this shabbily dressed -- chin looking to establish a name for himself.
He is probably America's greatest living -- -- the author of a dozen landmark works of journalism and fiction.
All best sellers among them radical chic.
Bonfire of the vanities.
Electric Kool Aid acid test the right stuff.
I am Charlotte Simmons.
And a man in full his latest novel released late last year is called back to blunt.
I speak of the man in the white suit a literary genius who might idolize to a degree that is frankly -- healthy for me the one and only Tom -- Who joins us from our Manhattan headquarters Tom welcome to the foxhole.
Well listen thank you very much famine in New York studios you probably know and did you know that their billboards all over the place here for you.
-- I I hadn't seen those now you have to come up here.
If -- they -- they say the foxhole with James Rosen I'm not getting.
Well there's a big budget for this sort of thing -- Tom.
I know that you will feel just shy of naked not knowing these critical status details because I don't think you can see me so I disclose to you here.
That I am wearing a more or less nondescript two button charcoal gray Jack -- business suit with a quote unquote interesting -- -- and matching pink Parker chief.
Not a lot better than usual.
I thought all right Tom let's begin by talking about your new book back to blood.
What's it about why did you write it.
-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- Book about immigration but not help people sink into the country but.
What they do after they -- you haven't they live what what is life like and a I was first attracted to the Vietnamese and in California -- so many.
And the Los Angeles area and in moving up to.
North northern California and San Jose there's not only -- -- well known San Jose Mercury newspaper.
There's also a Viet.
-- strange thing about it fairly -- -- and that's speak Vietnamese.
I could read it I mean I couldn't even come close to the reading it and then I just heard about.
People talking about Miami and it dawn on me that -- Miami is the only.
In the world as far as I can -- That.
-- is run politically by people from another country.
With another language in a completely different.
And of course I'm talking about did -- humans and they did all this in just about a little over one generation this is remarkable.
Now that little lead character in the book is a man named Nestor Camacho.
He's a Miami police officer of Cuban descent.
It strikes me I've never written fiction Tom button -- you tell me that.
That that that the very didn't -- -- name you give your character the very decision about how the name your characters must be one of the hardest things about writing fiction.
And coming up with the name Nestor Camacho and satisfying yourself with the names of your characters.
Is that true.
But it was actually it was going to be originally.
Nesta Carter no -- -- -- And it -- that this factor well known active.
Has that name so -- and then I think -- this guys is they have them I present him as -- rather macho.
Type of cup.
And so those -- -- much it was a very.
Very common name.
In Miami and named him and Cuba has in the great.
-- -- -- -- -- -- not to -- -- sure just died.
So it without giving away too much about the plot.
It's safe to say that your book as some of your other novels have done -- -- different locales explores the racial tensions in the city of Miami.
And fully explore some of the ethical quandary -- into which law enforcement officers and journalists and other people lawyers judges or are often plunged.
But the actual title back to blunt.
Explain force if you would.
What that title means.
I found myself so this -- of -- thinking.
Thinking it through -- starting about 1015 years ago.
It just taught me how many people are suddenly.
Going back to their bloodlines.
Hey he is generally is not what -- they go back to their bid bloodlines for something to believe them.
And as and a lot of area a lot of places.
Believe in my god in this.
But I think everybody can I think.
Hold onto their hold on to their roots that suddenly they can just but you have to blindly believe -- something.
You can't logically believe.
And and anything that's going to be of that's going to be a real.
Real importance and I think if it becomes especially -- you've got as many.
Immigrants from all over the world as you do in Miami -- Russians are.
Are coming in.
-- and there have been lots of patients for a long time lot of venezuelans are pouring in now.
The enemy any real twin of Fidel Castro has taken -- -- -- over there.
And they you know these groups do not.
Let's not -- melting pot.
It's as if you throw these and get to the putt you waited.
Three days -- intense heat you come back and they're still ringgit.
Let -- it's safe.
It's it's it's different from -- -- is different.
-- -- Being in in inciting the kind of the -- of religion of organized religion as -- as the factor that is propelling us back to blood if you will.
And this I think.
Is a recurring theme of viewers.
At least in our conversations I remember the one of the previous times they interviewed you I asked you what you thought was the real reason for the Holocaust.
In Nazi Germany and you said it was the absence of god in men's lives.
In deep do you believe in god worry how were you raised in terms of your own religion.
-- I believe in Zeus myself.
-- actually as he's as big she pointed out it's it's a great benefit you know -- -- he had when he said god is dead.
People sometimes think that is a declaration of atheists who wasn't at all.
He was really saying you're all in trouble now you don't believe in god.
Any longer and this is -- mean.
That in that he would be named -- century that 21 century -- this is gonna end up.
It -- the total eclipse of all values he had already predicted the world war -- -- he -- for effective in making -- I've.
And he he he said it clips of all values is going to be worse people.
-- world wars -- be more political what about your own background how are you relays are raised in terms of religion poll.
I was raised as a presbyterian.
I went to trip to Sunday school every.
And then I got into my teens who -- Certain things just didn't make much sense to me and more like.
Pre destination is the core.
The president -- isn't.
They -- found -- is true.
The truth -- Listen to everybody who's talking about evolution.
The greatest scholars and America who talk about evolution.
Are saying that and there is no such thing as free will.
You're born with a set of genes and this.
The chairman -- your whole life.
I mean I want to slow -- -- Let's get real.
-- well I know that you you are big follower of -- -- of the developments in neuroscience.
And you have said previously in essence that we're all born with a kind of a film strip in our heads.
In terms of -- intellect and abilities and it's just a matter of how well or how poorly that existing film strip is developed but that's what accounts for all of our different capabilities and such.
Very quickly because we're gonna have to go for a little break.
Do you regard back to blood is the best novel that you've written.
I've earned everything I've just written is the best.
What what did you learn about from your previous novels that you were able to apply -- incorporate here that truly makes this better than your previous ones.
Welcome -- For me -- -- your writing nonfiction fiction.
It's it's all about.
And I had.
Getting my advice and it's not that young right as as we -- -- Very often but I would say first leave the building.
And causes this is an incredible country has some amazing you -- as it as if the saying goes you can't make stuff.
And that's particularly true and and a place like Miami where.
Woods slightly more than 50%.
Is made -- of recent -- -- immigrants was in the last.
Fifty years when that's true.
I knew that people from another country Cubans who are.
They're going to be things that you can't just get -- the newspaper you can't get there.
All right stay right there Tom.
GWG -- and writes the passing of Ed Koch reminds me of the New York City and Tom Wolfe's bonfire of the vanities will be right back.
With Tom -- Here in the -- stay with us.
Are so obsessed with status.
And with clothes.
And architecture and that sort of thing I wonder if it's caused friction.
When you were friends or your wife's friends come over to they think my god what can I Wear to this man's house is going to be -- every little -- but my shoes expensive enough etc.
I mean is that actually come up to people -- don't.
If they have -- believe I'm wrong.
And put up so that it doesn't it doesn't matter I have won -- my original interest in -- -- science brain physiology was known as backed them.
-- it my conviction that must be somewhere in the brain that makes us conscious moment by moment of our.
Status and deal because it states with the same status as much more status and -- -- You're back in the fox -- I'm still James Rosen I'm still in Washington and we still have our -- a privilege to have as our guest mr.
Tom -- who's in -- Manhattan headquarters what we just heard was an exchange from our 2004 interview what's remarkable to me watching that tape now Tom is.
How I have remained essentially unchanged and how aged and -- -- you appear so with that in mind Tom.
This is still pre occupation of your status right.
Before we get onto that.
As I remember -- just become more of my memories like is I remember.
At that time in 2004 I was wearing a light blue shirt.
If that's true.
That that ice I think that that can be confirmed.
And then it marks a radical departure for you in terms of sartorial decisions.
OK back are you still obsessed with status is that still the governing sort of thing that that informs all of your work -- your researching your writing.
Yes men I have I am trying to expound -- great theory.
On -- but although I have a month.
-- I believe that.
Unless one is in.
And danger of death or danger of being wounded that every single moment waking moment of our lives.
Determined by -- the status if you think about it with nothing about it geographically but if you think about it when you -- -- alone in.
Just think of all of they've.
Things that you do that the products that you want with you that are determined by.
Well as I say I won't get graphic about it but this is incredible number.
Or some people are very particular about.
About shaving cream and -- are those I've run into who think that.
Old spice has higher status than -- -- -- -- Gillette is too well known.
I understand now.
Let me ask your question about about the new journalism.
This is something you helped pioneer in the sixty's and seventy's you've written about this.
And you and a number of other journalists.
Contemporaries of yours Goethe -- Jimmy Breslin hunter Thompson.
-- Norman Mailer to some extent the Truman Capote you all helped pioneer the use of of the techniques.
In the rendering of nonfiction.
And one of the things that's important to this to achieving this effect.
Is that you really do and all of your writing fiction nonfiction list on this -- succeed in placing the reader.
Inside the skull of a given individual.
So that -- -- the reader sees the world through that person's eye sockets is called point of view.
And you wait you've done this over the over your career too and I'm focusing now on your nonfiction work Tom yet.
You use like -- sometimes to conjure the interior monologue -- someone like Phil Spector the record producer -- Or any of the people that you've covered as a reporter tell me and for the benefit of our our audience.
Because this is a tricky line to walk how are you conjure -- interior monologue without making up quotes.
I would I truly do if I feel like I have interviewed a person enough noise I have got no person well enough.
That I can and and then they have told me they have thought about this or that.
That that I feel I can.
Can do it and yes.
It's not it's not going to be verbatim if if -- in there.
He had to but I have a web getting the substance of it right -- another thing that I.
I really think is effective.
Is what I called the down stage voice.
And I had had is you you're writing a narrative.
And into your own narrative you put the accent the the language.
Of the person that you're writing about as as if it is you know pretending he's saying this is -- being -- or of an article about the Junior Johnson the stock car.
-- -- last American.
And at one point he's doing some practice runs around a track of the point of showing the practice -- show how fast that he goes on track.
And he -- they have no treads upon these tires and that stock car racing.
So that it.
It burns rubber much more easily than an ordinary a ordinary -- and so -- to you at that point have as if I'm in them.
Is somebody's voice but -- really mind but it.
And you know brief.
-- blue gum balls come Junior Johnson now.
And at that you know that is not -- that it's not a pretense.
Is just trying to put to -- -- -- -- -- -- -- Who's looking on -- It's if these are.
Even novels don't -- -- much.
So so it's a fine line to walk it seems to me between.
Asserting that's recording that person and asserting that you were.
Conjuring what you know to be there they're kind of interior monologue.
But various and I don't try to -- I don't try to push the boundaries of the interior monologue very not very far.
And let me ask you some more questions about your technique and a voucher you're working methods.
You I assume you have done some number of your interviews all the interviews you've done -- projects you record those interviews.
I'm sorry -- Did.
I'm -- -- -- -- and he can do you do you record the interviews you do for research purposes.
All you know that -- so easy to record things.
I started doing -- wade -- in the X six's and I was doing so much of this.
I was using shorthand.
And wicked period shorthanded is not bad you have to keep it up.
And his spirit is there and let's let's look at another shot from one of our viewers Jim -- 809 says Tom Wolfe put it best one belongs to New York instantly.
One belongs to it as much in five minutes -- in five years.
-- the recordings the notes you've taken the shorthand notes the notebooks you filled up with a research the recordings you've made for research purposes.
Are those warehoused somewhere what are your ultimate plans for all of your papers and things.
Well actually they are and I'm.
I'm not NSA if I'm very bad day and there is a great load of have.
Where where are they.
You really wanna know -- -- thought they Dan Miceli -- -- know they are they are down in the they are now in the -- Of -- and ability that I.
Live -- not recommended you know sellers.
Now that's are susceptible to floods and fires.
Is there anything as a writer.
That you and I mean this seriously that you feel -- you have not accomplished that she wanted to accomplish.
There is I but I believe.
That portrait can be brought back.
By the use of -- right now portrayed.
Have -- minimize it but they -- they look portrays -- great -- Snow covered peak season begins and it's easier to admire it go visit.
And so it's just not it's just not read there is no substitute.
Four -- today.
Edgar Allan Poe would be writing jingles for so what -- what is your what is your regret.
What did I accomplish I haven't I really haven't had I haven't done this.
I've done some Ive done some and it's and number of articles and books I've suddenly broken into.
-- -- -- Signaling that I'm going to get it running -- run after -- Is there is there in your worst in your possession.
A large corpus of unpublished writings.
By -- No you know and he wouldn't win whenever.
Dies -- they are all night.
People will say.
I want to I think he hasn't and is and is desk.
But in fact writers are slowly -- testicle that they know -- anything in there if there's some way.
It can be published I think Ken lay did had a -- had a couple things with -- C.
When they were published heated and you can see why he didn't want them published but I myself don't have anything.
I never had anything like that.
One of the recurring.
Teams in your writing has to do with manliness.
Feats of strength.
Moments where one man is -- to basically stand down because he is not as physically strong as another man.
The right stuff was full of of a lot of writing about feats of amazing courage and and bravery.
-- physical bravery.
So this leads me to a question Tom.
Where you -- -- a fist fight in your life.
Are you -- what I have grown well bill yet where you'll ever know where you ever in a fist fight or fist fight.
And to tell the truth.
I know was and -- in the fist fight I try to -- them first.
And so no one not not a single want.
No -- I -- breath I'm not getting on this it I don't get into many scrapes like that.
But if I if I do I just converted to wrestling anybody who's stands up and fight -- through some idiot.
Were you physically powerful as a young guy.
Yes -- what unfortunate I don't have the pictures with me.
Two to prove it but I was I think that every do you ever go to gymnasium and I go five comfortably.
Everybody's watching everybody else they're pretending that they -- And everybody is trying to do things in a way that other men.
Will will not look look you look down on.
It's it's just in it in some kind of silly fact of life.
As we all know all it takes is one.
You have 250 pounds of perfectly.
Well bill human being and -- 35 dollar revolver will put an end to to is golf.
I don't go to gymnasiums for the very reason you mentioned missions that.
When I go there I tend to be the only guy that looks like they need to be there.
We've got about a minute left in this segment -- wanna ask you about one of the criticisms of view has been that.
You tend to kind of repeat phrases.
And themes in your books for example -- back to blunt I noticed that -- Camacho says to himself one point please lord I -- the don't let me -- up.
Which was the same prayer -- her in the head of -- the astronauts in the right stuff don't let me F up on the mission.
Do you worry about repeating yourself do you acknowledge that you repeat yourself.
Well actually I'm flattered that you remember all this well.
I -- I.
I assume that people haven't read me.
That well and there are certain phrases you just can't improve -- And I -- and -- -- bar Aaron repeat myself I don't repeat nobody else.
Well that's true that that -- off litigation will be right back.
More with Tom wolf including his thoughts on President Obama stay with us in the -- We're back in the foxhole they only have about a minute left for Tom Wolfe.
The literary master of the universe joining us from our New York headquarters very quickly Tom.
What do you think of Barack Obama.
I believe that one of the greatest benefits.
Barack Obama as president.
Is that it has brought to a dead halt.
Two things one is carping from.
You're European countries particularly.
That we have done we've we've done -- so terribly badly to our.
Which one of them.
A president who is of a different color of the majority of it hasn't hit that hasn't happened.
And the other thing is a very strange.
Is very strange result.
As a result of the president Obama's.
The a lot of the ordinary.
What I would -- Race hustling.
-- We have to leave it there Tom Greta time I hate to do this will continue this at the Lotus club okay -- back.
Tom -- master of the universe gracing us in the foxhole.
We're switching time slots Tuesdays at 1 PM we'll see on February 12 thanks much for joining us.