When I read things like Gay Talese’s 2009 Art of Nonfiction interview with Katie Roiphe for The Paris Review, I find yet another reason to say that Gay Talese does it right.
Usually I wake up in bed with my wife. I don’t want to have breakfast with anyone. So I go from the third floor, which is our bedroom, to the fourth floor, where I keep my clothes. I get dressed as if I’m going to an office. I wear a tie.
Yes. I dress as if I’m going to an office in midtown or on Wall Street or at a law firm, even though what I am really doing is going downstairs to my bunker. In the bunker there’s a little refrigerator, and I have orange juice and muffins and coffee. Then I change my clothes.
Talese, who turns 81-years-old today, gets dressed up every morning to go down to his “subterranean think tank.” Talese, the descendant of Italian tailors, has always put an emphasis on his personal style, and I’ve always believed that the way he dresses influences the way that he writes. Talese has never been shy about his style, he wrote for Vanity Fair that, “there are people who are greatly concerned about the environment and the well-being of Bengal tigers and yellow-headed Amazon parrots. And then there are people like me who worry about the professional survival of men’s custom tailors.” Talese goes on to talk of the craftsmanship that goes into a custom suit, and I think it’s that appreciation of craft that has helped Talese to be one of the great writers of our time.
I love the idea of the solitary writer all dressed up (Robert Caro puts on a suit to write every day as well) to work. There is something about looking sharp not to impress anybody, but to simply sit work as part of a great writer’s routine that is inspiring.