A Conversation with Tom Wolfe
NEH Chairman Bruce Cole discusses the impolitic in education, art, and architecture with Tom Wolfe. Wolfe is the author of fourteen books, among them The Bonfire of the Vanities, The Right Stuff, and his most recent, I Am Charlotte Simmons.
Bruce Cole: I wanted to talk about literature and you as a chronicler. You just spent a lot of time on college campuses talking to kids. What is happening with how we study literature and how we interpret literature in the academy now?
Tom Wolfe: The study of literature has been so politicized at the graduate level that I urged my daughter, who has a degree in English from Duke, not to even think about it. It's a theory-ridden field now and the theories, somewhat like the theories of the international style in architecture, are essentially political.
The assumption is that all languages have been molded by the masters. It's kind of considered vulgar Marxism any longer to talk about the capitalists. So, you don't use terms like the proletariat, the bourgeosie, infantile leftism, and all those things. You talk about the masters of the establishment or the powers that be. The idea is that the powers that be have been able to mold the language so that--to use the most blatant example--the word "women" is 60 percent men. I don't know if you remember the age when feminists were urging that we spell women with a y--"womyn"--instead of an e.
Cole: Or "history" and "herstory." His-story is only part of history.
Wolfe: Which leads to the theory of deconstruction. First, you have to deconstruct the language to show the way that language itself has been manipulated as a way of trapping your mind according to a prescription written by them, the masters. Then you can actually study literature.
I notice from reading The Chronicle of Higher Education that we may be at the beginning of the end of theory, but it certainly has not ended yet.
Take Stanley Fish and his reader response theory--that no piece of writing means anything. The entire meaning is given to it by the response of the reader. So, if the reader has been conditioned to have the wrong responses, the literature becomes worth that much less. It's the lesson that says you've got to reeducate the readers politically.
Cole: If it means something different to everyone, then it means it doesn't mean anything.
Wolfe: It doesn't mean anything.
Cole: Is this because some people believe there are no universals any more, no truths?
Wolfe: I'm sure Stanley Fish has his universals, but they wouldn't fit into conventional teaching of literature.
Cole: What has been the effect of all this, either on how people read or how they look at literature as art? Has it had ramifications in the wider world of writing?
Wolfe: In my experience in going around to these different colleges, it has very little effect upon most undergraduates. They just discount it. But they also give the teachers back whatever they want. As Solzhenitsyn said, if you give the dishonest response long enough, you might as well be believing it.
It does create a climate in which it becomes impolitic to stress certain things. Eventually, everybody needs reinforcement by some kind of authority, whether the beliefs are about literature or religion. It makes you wonder--I'm going to exclude myself--it makes you wonder about your own beliefs and your own theories of the meaning of life.
This brings us to political correctness, which also is ignored, I would say, by 80 percent of all undergraduates. It does have one rather positive effect: it has become extremely bad manners almost everywhere in college to use racist slurs and to speak intolerantly about almost anybody.
Now, that's a good thing: just simply increasing respect for all sorts of people. Of course, it has down sides, too. No longer does the premise of racial-ethnic harmony hold at all. Diversity means something else. Diversity really means dispersion, which you can see in any university dining hall. There is far from being any integration. There are ethnic clusters all over the dining rooms, ethnic and racial.
But I really don't find the students terribly political.
Cole: I can't remember where I heard the slogan, "unity in diversity." I could never quite figure that out.
Wolfe: I think the assumption was that there would be unity. No, there's diversity in diversity.
Cole: Let me turn to your work. You've described yourself as a chronicler. What is that exactly?
Wolfe: Balzac enjoyed saying, "I am the secretary of French society," meaning a secretary who takes notes, not like the Secretary of Labor or something . . . He keeps tabs on what is happening in society, in the sense of social mores as well as just "society" with a small s. If I'm working well, I'm first and foremost bringing the news.
That was Nietzsche's expression when he said "God is dead." He said this is not a manifesto for atheism. He said, I'm just bringing you the news. I'm bringing you the news of the biggest event in modern history. God is dead, by which he meant, of course, that educated people were beginning to have no faith in God any longer. This was the 1880s. He predicted that in the twentieth century would come the rise of "barbaric nationalistic brotherhoods," leading to "wars such as have never been fought before." In other words, he predicted Nazism, Communism, and the world wars. Not bad, no matter what anybody thinks about his overarching take on life. In the twenty-first century, he said, would come the total collapse of all values.
He said if that happens, it will be worse than the world wars. He said the psychological devastation when people come to the point where they believe there is absolutely no meaning to life will be horrifying.
With a book like I Am Charlotte Simmons, my feeling is that I'm just bringing you the news.
Cole: You're the secretary.
Wolfe: I'm the secretary. In fact, in all the long books I've written I do not think you can find a political agenda. I Am Charlotte Simmons was interpreted by a lot of reviewers in a political way. On the left, there was great hostility to the book which at first I couldn't comprehend. I don't dismiss the fact that people just may not like the book. I didn't mean to say that. Then a number of conservative commentators went out of their way to defend the book, which is just the other side of hostility.
Cole: What was the criticism from the left?
Wolfe: There was the notion that this was simply not the case: that college wasn't like this. These were reviews written by people in their fifties, who hadn't been near a college for thirty years or so. They really had no idea what goes on.
Among liberals, it was taken as an attack on the sexual revolution because the sexual activity of the heroine, or the pressure of sex on her, had devastating results. Intellectuals pride themselves on having been liberated from the harsh grasp of religion when it comes to sexual mores. I make a distinction between intellectuals and people of intellectual achievement.
Cole: Who are intellectuals?
Wolfe: An intellectual feeds on indignation and really can't get by without it. The perfect example is Noam Chomsky. When Chomsky was merely the most exciting and most looked-to and in many ways, the most profound linguist in this country if not the world, he was never spoken of as an American intellectual. Here was a man of intellectual achievement. He was not considered an intellectual until he denounced the war in Vietnam, which he knew nothing about. Then he became one of America's leading intellectuals. He remains one until this day, which finally has led to my definition of an intellectual: An intellectual is a person who is knowledgeable in one field but speaks out only in others.
This whole business was started unintentionally by my great idol, Émile Zola, in the Dreyfus case. Zola was an extremely popular novelist. A popular writer writing fiction had never been considered a person of any intellectual importance before, but in the Dreyfus case he and Anatole France and others who were trying to defend Dreyfus were singled out by Clemenceau as "the intellectuals." The term had never been used that way before-meaning people who live by intellectual labor. That was Clemenceau's term.
When Zola wrote his great manifesto, J'accuse . . .!, it appeared on the front page of a daily newspaper. All 300,000 copies of the newspaper were sold out by afternoon. Suddenly the world of writers and teachers and all of these intellectual laborers realized that it was possible for a mere scrivener to be called an intellectual and be considered an important person.
Zola, incidentally, was very knowledgeable about the Dreyfus case. He knew it as well as anybody, as well as any law clerk did. That part was lost later on; it was considered not necessary to go that deeply into anything. All that was required was indignation.
Marshall McLuhan once said that moral indignation is a standard strategy for endowing the idiot with dignity. I think that's quite true these days.
It also meant--the Zola example--that the intellectual is really above the government. It doesn't mean he hates his country or even hates his government. It just means he looks down upon it from a great height, and he's been raised to this height by indignation. Without it, it's impossible to be an intellectual or to be taken seriously.
It caught hold here in the twenties and thirties, this idea of the intellectual who is above all the dim bulbs who actually govern.
Cole: You are a visual artist as well as a writer. How did you get into art?
Wolfe: My mother always encouraged me in that direction. I took art classes during the WPA era in Virginia. It cost twenty-five cents a week. Probably in every state during the Depression, down-and-out artists were given employment by teaching in the WPA art project. Wonderful artists were teaching art. I attended these classes for about three years. Then I just drew. I used to like to draw a lot and even did some painting. I started working summers for a commercial artist. Then when I was working in Springfield, Massachusetts, on my first newspaper job, I was sent to cover a murder trial. Cameras were not allowed in the courtroom. I saw something I'd never seen before anywhere. The defendants sat in a half cage, which was like a hockey goal, and I said, "I don't believe this. I mean, here the jury sees defendants who have been put in a cage." It just didn't seem fair.
As I sat there covering the trial, I drew the cage and the defendants from the back and the rest of the courtroom. And the newspaper ran it. I started doing illustrated features for the Sunday magazine and an occasional one for the daily. Then I sold myself to the Washington Post as a reporter who illustrated his own stories. I did some of those for the Post, but I tell you, it will drive you crazy. When you're on a scene and you're drawing--this is what I found--you can't hear words, just sounds. That must be the left side and right side of the brain in conflict.
Cole: You have a PhD. What was your dissertation?
Wolfe: My dissertation was on the League of American Writers. The subtitle was "Communist Activity Among American Writers, 1927 to '42."
This was a very dangerous dissertation to do. We're talking about the late fifties now. I got my degree in 1957, which was still known as the McCarthy period. And many people advised me not to even undertake this. As a result, if anyone ever had the bad fortune of having to read it, it's written as if it's by a man from Mars who has arrived in a strange land and these things are happening.
For example, I would refer to Ernest Hemingway as "E. Hemingway, a novelist of the period," to make it absolutely remote in terms of objectivity. I was intrigued with sociology. The dissertation was a sociological study of the makeup of the literary world, complete with the usual statistical data.
Cole: What impelled you to choose that subject?
Wolfe: I did a paper in graduate school about the first American Writers' Congress. Why was I interested in that? I honestly don't remember, In the stacks at Yale, I remember coming across volumes of the New Masses, which was a Communist publication--quite well done, incidentally.
This first American Writers' Congress was held in 1935 . It was an attempt by the Communist Party to remove the red glare in the coloring of their cultural movement--in the arts, movies, literature--and to focus on the anti-Nazi, anti-fascist cause.
In fact, it was the Communist Party that invented the word fascist to apply to the Nazis. The fascists were only in Italy, members of a socialist party known as the Fascisti. The word was never used in Germany. The Communists wanted to obscure the fact that the Nazis and the Fascisti were, like themselves, national socialists. The acronym NAZI stands for the National Socialist Workers Party. So, was Soviet communism national socialism? Absolutely. Communists the world over never did a thing that wasn't for the defense or the advance of the Soviet Union.
Cole: This is when Hitler and Stalin were getting ready to sign the nonaggression pact.
Wolfe: Actually, it was before then. They started in 1935 and they were going great guns. If you look at the roster of the League of American Writers, which was a front, it includes most of the well-known writers of that period because it was presented to them strictly as an antifascist organization. Then in 1939, you get the Nazi-Soviet nonaggression pact. And that destroyed the whole movement.
To this day, the fact that National Socialism in Germany and so-called International Communism in the Soviet Union led to exactly the same results really never has registered among intellectuals who still look at Communists as liberals in a hurry.
Cole: You got out of graduate school and then you were a journalist, right? When did you start writing fiction?
Wolfe: That came much, much later. I came out of college and like most people who want to be writers, I assumed I was going to write novels eventually. So, I did something which used to be common before the Second World War: I went into journalism as a form of writing. Then I fell in love with it and with the life.
You get wonderful little status points every day: Here's your byline and you can go through the police line. You have this press card that will get you almost anywhere. You get a little, nice status stimulation every day.
I finally reached New York, which was my goal. I worked on the New York Herald Tribune and then came a strike in 1962. All the papers were on strike and the strike lasted for months. Just to make a living, I began freelance magazine writing and then became interested in what was eventually called the New Journalism, which was very, very similar to the journalism Stephen Crane did in the 1890s.
I just wrote an afterword for a Penguin edition of Stephen Crane's Maggie, A Girl of the Streets. Crane was most famous for a novel, The Red Badge of Courage. But most of his career was journalism. He loved getting material as a journalist. Before he wrote Maggie, A Girl of the Streets, he spent night after night in the 1890s version of the homeless shelters. Namely, the flophouses, seventeen cents a night or less. Probably where he got tuberculosis, which he died of at the age of twenty-eight.
He did many pieces in which he stuck to the facts, like any conventional journalist, but wrote using the techniques of the short story and the novel. They are very specific techniques, incidentally.
I hadn't read any Stephen Crane at the time, but his kind of work was beginning to be done in the early 1960s. I noticed it first in Gay Talese and Jimmy Breslin. I said, "Hey, this is exciting." By the time I got into it, I was not even thinking about novels any longer. Up to this day, I think that the experimental nonfiction that was done in the sixties, seventies, a little bit in the eighties was the most exciting new direction in literature in this country in the second half of the twentieth century.
For the novel now, it's all downhill. It's heading downhill very fast because the writers today almost always come out of Master of Fine Arts programs such as the famous ones at Iowa and Stanford. These programs are like standing water. Mosquitoes breed in standing water. It has become unfashionable to put your hands in the social muck of a society and deal with all these vulgar motivations such as social status or greed or anything of this sort.
The psychological novel, which is mainly the novel of yourself at home, is what is taught. Your own experience is the only valid experience that you can draw from.
If Dickens had believed that, he might have had one book in him, probably David Copperfield, but that would have been it. Tolstoy was lucky. He was many things: warrior, socialite, farmer. He would have had two books, War and Peace and Anna Karenina. Anna Karenina features both High Society and farming, ton after exhausting ton of farming, in fact. But those two books would have been quite enough, I guess.
Anyway, nonfiction was very exciting. It remains, I think, a very strong direction and one that will survive, unlike the novel. There's no reason why the novel will survive, except as an anachronism like epic poetry. Unfortunately, that's the way poetry is now regarded--as a worthy but unpopular pursuit, enjoyed only by a sympathetic coterie.
The novel will become a worthy but unpopular pursuit unless the novelists get outside of their own lives, depart their comfortable little studies, insulated floor to ceiling by shelves of books, the poor scrivener's version of Proust's cork-lined room, and do what writers did in the great period of American literature, which was the first half of the twentieth century. Everybody from Stephen Crane to John Steinbeck quite intentionally went outside of his own experience. Steinbeck became a reporter for the San Francisco News. By this time, he had sold Tortilla Flat to the movies and had no financial incentive to write for a newspaper, but he saw it as a way to get materials for a novel. So he started going around these migrant labor camps he knew nothing about. He ended up with his masterpiece, The Grapes of Wrath, which probably is what won him the Nobel Prize.
Cole: This is a zealous secretary in a way, isn't it?
Wolfe: Yes, it is; it is.
Think of Sinclair Lewis. He decided that he wanted to write a novel about the Protestant clergy, which had tremendous power in the 1920s. To prepare for it, he used to fill in for ministers who wanted to take a vacation in the summer and he would give sermons. He would go to Chautauquas. He would go to divinity schools, carrying around his five-by-eight cards, where he would take notes to write Elmer Gantry, which I like the best of all of his books.
This was what you did. Dos Passos would go out into the country to get materials for Manhattan Transfer or the USA trilogy. You got outside of yourself.
Alfred Kazin said in a book that he wrote in 1942 that American novelists were in love with every last detail of American life. They might be skeptical of it, but they loved the material and they just couldn't get enough of that material. I think the novel could revive and survive if that attitude were renewed.
I didn't mean to write but one novel. It was The Bonfire of the Vanities. It came after I had written the book The Right Stuff, nonfiction, about the astronauts. It gave me the first financial cushion I had ever had as a writer. I said to myself, "well, I know that a lot of people are saying that this New Journalism is just a very complicated writer's block so you don't have to face the big one, the novel. Now is my chance to try the so-called 'big one.'" I ended up writing The Bonfire of the Vanities.
Even then I had to go to Rolling Stone and persuade them to run it serially in the magazine. I needed the deadlines. Otherwise, I would never have gotten the thing done.
I wasn't going to write another novel, but that book did so well on a lot of levels, temptation overcame me, and I said "maybe I'll try another one." As a result, I've now written three, but I still believe that nonfiction is the great American form of the last fifty years.
Cole: Running a book in serial form was something Dickens did. I take it you're an admirer of Dickens.
Wolfe: I am a big admirer of Dickens, but I must confess that I think the greatest serial novelist was Zola. You could see Dickens spinning his wheels. There are passages in his books where really nothing is happening. If you read biographies of Dickens, he would be in a book store browsing and somebody would come in and say, "where's the new Dickens installment? When is it coming out?" He'd say, "Oh, my God, I need to go home and start writing it. I have about a week to go."
Zola used to do about 40 percent of his books ahead of time. If you've done 40 percent, then you've worked out most of the big problems.
Cole: One final question. As well known as you are as a writer, you cut a figure in and out of literary circles for your white suits. A friend of mine wanted to know if Vincent Nicolosi is still your tailor.
Wolfe: Yes. In England, you're not supposed to tell the name of your tailor, but I want to make sure that the tailors flourish.
Mr. Nicolosi is a perfectionist in details. He does his own sewing for jackets. There's a million stitches. And he does nice little things with curves on the end of cuffs and so forth. He's very attentive to details. But he's much more flexible than British tailors. The British tailors will tell you that they will do anything for you, but they won't. They have an idea of what a suit should look like and that's it.
Cole: When I lived in Italy as a graduate student, nobody bought suits. You'd have your suits made. That was absolutely incredible for me.
Wolfe: I think today, given how much suits cost in the department store or a boutique, you might as well have them made. For a little more, you're going to get exactly what you want.
My father lived in a small town in Virginia and there was no such thing as a department store. He was born in 1892. All men had their suits made.
Cole: Why is fashion important? What does it tell us?
Wolfe: Every man and every woman is equally fixated on fashion. Men who would bridle at that suggestion are usually men who want to fit in in whatever milieu they want to be in. They do not want to stand out in any way, shape, or form. That's just as true in the stands at the stock car races as it might be at Sullivan and Cromwell, the law firm.
Somebody like myself, perhaps, stands out on purpose with just minor variations on the conventional. My suits are conventionally cut. They just happen to be white. The same with shoes, everything else.
I feel it's to a writer's advantage, since he sells a mass-produced product called a book, to catch attention any way he can. This is not shared by my fellow writers, you understand. But you'll notice how few writers are willing to appear on the back of a book with a necktie on. That's a bohemian fashion that's supposed to show one way or another you're thumbing your nose at convention. Then it becomes a convention itself. If I saw one more writer with an open shirt, the wind blowing through his hair, I was going to stop buying books. They've calmed down a little bit, but still the tie is anathema.
Ironically, if you read a book such as The Intellectuals on the Road to Class Power, about the arts in Czechoslovakia under a Communist regime, the writers in the Writers' Union were dressed like businessmen. They were on top. If you were in the Writers' Union, your books were published automatically, even if no one read them. And I've just been reading Huizinga's The Autumn of the Middle Ages.
Cole: That's a very great book, I think.
Wolfe: The attention to status detail and dress is absolutely fascinating. I forget the French nobleman who was found guilty of a capital crime, who insisted on arriving in his full regalia--an ermine-trimmed coat and the works--for his beheading. He just wasn't going to show up looking like a common, vulgar victim. I liked that.
To this day, I think it hasn't changed. It's just more covert now. Style is always a window into what a person thinks of his place in the world or what he wants his place to be in the world.
Balzac often would start off chapters with a description of a room and the types of furniture. He might point out that the curtains on the windows were not really damask. They were half cotton. He would give you a whole picture of the inhabitants just through his status details.
And Saint-Beuve, who I guess was the leading French critic of the day, said, if this man Balzac is so obsessed with furniture, why doesn't he own a shop and spare us these tedious novels. [Laughter]
Tissot, who has become my favorite painter the more of his work that I see, is a great example of that. For a long time, Tissot was written off as a sort of fashionista. He was in love with the look of women's clothes. But I think now he's being perceived as a great painter.
Cole: He's a much more nuanced painter, I think, than people give him credit for.
Wolfe: A lot of the work was outdoors in that period. I'm not talking about landscapes, but paintings done of things going on in the street. And on boats. The love of illustration was quite frank and open. Then suddenly, it became a much-denigrated approach to art; by the 1940s, to call a painter an illustrator was one of the worst things you could call him.
Interestingly enough, right now abstraction is going out of fashion. Young painters are crying for life classes in the art schools and a lot of art schools are left with very few teachers who can teach draftsmanship. They are returning to the object and to the human form.
Cole: As the idea of object was denigrated, the illustration got denigrated the most. So did wonderful painters like N. C. Wyeth and Maxfield Parrish.
Wolfe: Remember how absolutely bottom of the swamp that Norman Rockwell was? Now, he's been accepted as a painter of American folk myths. He's been gone long enough. El Greco, who went way out of fashion after his death, is now quite all right.
Cole: This is very true. If you're going to do a history of twentieth century American art, you'd have to put Rockwell front and center. If you went around asking people to name a twentieth century artist, they'd probably say Rockwell. They wouldn't say Rothko or Motherwell or someone like that.
Wolfe: Or they might mean Rockwell, but thinking that you might know better, they'd try to dream up some fashionable artist.
What we call the art world is such a small number of people. I once estimated it as 10,000, probably 3,000 in the United States, about 2,700 in New York. They're either in New York or they orbit around New York galleries and New York museums. It's really a very few people.
The critics today don't dare discover anybody, because they might be discovering the wrong fashion. So, they're just couriers. They bring you the opinions of this small group of people known as the art world and they bring it to you in the New York Times or in Time magazine or in Newsweek.
There are huge sectors of art works that simply aren't considered. They aren't reviewed.
Cole: Since Picasso, the hallmark of great art has been originality, which was certainly not the case in the preceding periods. Since everyone is original now, how do you know who is original? There are no boundaries anymore.
Wolfe: Well, the art world decides for you. That's, that's really what happens. Tom Stoppard in his play, Artist Descending a Staircase, has one of his characters say that imagination without skill gives us modern art.
Cole: I do think you're seeing a return to the object and the figure. But my question is can you ever put it back together again after artists have really seen things in different ways?
Wolfe: Often the artists simply have not been taught. They don't know enough about draftsmanship to do it. They don't know enough about color. They don't know enough about light and shadow. You can see a lot of it in Picasso.
Picasso left art school at the age of fifteen, on the grounds there was nothing more they could teach him. This is extolled in biographies of Picasso.
Unfortunately, he never learned perspective. In his realistic period, early in his life, there's never a room with perspective. He puts a figure or two and a stick of furniture in the foreground, and everything beyond them is fog. He never really learned anatomy. In many of his realistic pictures, fingers and thumbs are like a bunch of asparagus that you buy in the grocery store. He was never very good on things like foreshortening. If I were as ill-prepared as Picasso or Braque I would have thought up a name like Cubism, too, as a way of legitimizing one's lack of skill.
Cole: If you look at Jackson Pollock's figurative things, poor guy, he never could draw.
Wolfe: Think of De Kooning. His skills are negligible.
However, some of the people will fool you. I was thinking of Joseph Albers, who spent the last thirty years of his life trying to solve the problems, if any, of placing one square of color on top of another. In his youth, he was a wonderful artist of the human figure. He had a touch of Egon Schiele in his work.
Cole: The only abstract artist I can get excited about is David Smith and that's because it's sculpture. I like that interplay between those three-dimensional or two-dimensional forms.
Wolfe: Architecture is no different. The new generations in architecture are returning as fast as they can to pure Le Corbusier. They feel that there are some first principles of early Modernism, about a hundred years ago, that have not been properly understood and appreciated. They look upon Postmodernism as an aberration, to quote Brad Cloepfil, who is one of the fashionable new reactionaries.
Cole: What do you think about Postmodernists in architecture--this revival to fantasy and whimsy and revivalism. Is that a good sign?
Wolfe: Anything that would break out of the box, to me was a good sign. In early Modernism, so-called International Style, the architects very willingly tied one hand and both elbows behind their backs, which meant they couldn't handle anything but a straight edge and a pencil. It's amazing what they were able to do anything at all, and even more so that their tastes prevail today, going on a hundred years.
You look at what was done at the Bauhaus by Gropius or Mies, Breuer, any of them and what was done by Le Corbusier. It was founded on essentially a socialist notion that the bourgeoisie had caused World War I--which was a horrible piece of self-destruction by European civilization--and that therefore you should take all bourgeois elements out of architecture.
That's a piece of false reasoning. It's reasoning by analogy and science abhors analogy. Let's say the bourgeoisie did cause--which is a stretch itself--did cause the First World War. What does that have to do with removing whatever the bourgeoisie liked, such as comfort, from architecture?
They ruled out easy chairs. They were too bourgeois. No more applied decoration like moldings or any kind of ornament, because that was bourgeois. No pretty colors. The only colors allowed were black, white and a rather pallid beige.
Cole: This then turns into the kind of symbol of high capitalism in the United States. Take the Seagram Building.
Wolfe: I think that architectural historians and cultural historians said, basically, this is a good move. It was antibourgeois architecture to be imposed upon the very Babylon of capitalism, which is New York City or America in general.
It was really ludicrous and I think that is what was on Edward Durell Stone's mind when he did the New Delhi Embassy with a lot of ornament.
Cole: Anyway, I have to say thank you for The Painted Word and From Bauhaus to Our House. Those were such validating books. They gave people some armor, you know, some ammunition.
Wolfe: I intended those books as permission slips for everybody to like what they want.