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Tom Wolfe

America's Master Novelist

The writing programs, where you get the Masters of Fine Art in writing, are always telling people to "write what you know." And students interpret that to mean your own life. Unless you're Count Tolstoy, there's not that much in your own life. I'd be out with a cup if I had to write surely what's based on my own life. But in the 19th century, where there were so many great realistic novelists, they understood. You had to go outside of your own life to get new material. Even Dostoevsky, we think of him being such an internal, psychological creative force. When he wanted to write about the student radicals of his era, he went to the archives. And then started going -- he'd hear about a meeting of some of these groups, he'd go attend, to just get the material. Dickens was, of course, famous for this. Zola did it just time after time after time, going to a new area of life. He wanted to get all of France into a series of novels, and he pretty well did. He'd go from farming to warfare, to whatever he thought he really hadn't covered yet.
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Tom Wolfe

America's Master Novelist

So it was at that point that I started The Bonfire of the Vanities. And at first it was going to be a novel about New York. It had no real focus. It was going to be based more or less on Thackeray's Vanity Fair. Hence the title, The Bonfire of the Vanities. I thought I could -- I had been a reporter for all those years here in New York, and I thought I could just draw upon my experiences, the things I'd seen, and write this book. And I found I couldn't. For the way I wanted to write a novel, I had to go out and do reporting just like the reporting that I did for The Right Stuff, for the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, or anything else that I had written.
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Tom Wolfe

America's Master Novelist

I decided I should have a great party scene -- a party of great social wattage in a Fifth Avenue apartment -- in this book. And I had been to a number of parties like that. And so, I said, "At last. I don't have to do any research for this." So I wrote this chapter, and then I read it over, and it was like a gossip column. You know, just "Who's that person? Who's that person? What did he say? What did she say?" So the next one I went to, I just shut up. I was just on the receiving end of whatever was going on. And for the first time, I noticed the strained, willfully raucous laughter that goes on at parties like that. People laugh in this frantic manner as if to say, "See! I'm a part of all this, and I know what's funny, and I'm just having the time of my life because I fit in!" And then I'd notice that the worst fate in the world was not to be in a conversational cluster. And if somebody's left out, you'd see them studying paintings as if they were very fascinated with art. They'd talk to empty spots on the wall. At last resort, they'll go up to a wife or a husband and start conversation. But you've already lost the game if you're reduced to doing that. There were so many things that I saw once I was not a participant. I was just there. I noticed that, at that time -- and we're talking about the 1980s -- in an apartment of great social wattage, there was never modern lighting. There were no down-lighters, which is essentially industrial lighting. It was always, you were always sometime in the 19th century. Everything's overstuffed. There are these sort of small amber lamps that make everybody's complexion look pretty good. And I just never would have noticed any of this from my own experience. And I discovered that if my radar isn't on, if I haven't switched it on, I don't notice any more than anybody else does.
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John Wooden

Basketball's Coaching Legend

John Wooden: I think very definitely it's the little things that make the big things happen. It's putting your shoes on properly. It's getting the wrinkles out of your socks so you won't get blisters. Those are important things. It's making sure that no soap is left on the shower room floor where someone -- maybe not you, but somebody else -- might slip and fall and hurt themselves. Just little things like that. They may seem inconsequential, but I think they're important. I think teaching your youngsters to be courteous to airline stewardesses, courteous to waitresses, courteous to all people in hotels, I think makes you a better team. I think that helps your basketball. I think that makes you a better basketball player. I think it brings you together more. I think it makes you more considerate of others. Team spirit is just being considerate of others, in my opinion.
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Bob Woodward

Investigative Reporter

Bob Woodward: June 17th, 1972. I had worked for The Post for nine months. They had this -- it looked like a local burglary at the Democratic Headquarters, a police story. I covered the night police beat. It was a Saturday morning, I think the summer. Editors looked around and thought, "Who could we call in? Who would be dumb enough to work on this story on a Saturday morning?" And they thought of me immediately. So I went to work with about seven or eight other people, including Carl (Bernstein), and I went to the arraignment of the five burglars, and the judge wanted to know where one of them worked, and he was mumbling. He wouldn't say. Kind of going, "CIA." And the judge said, "Where?" And he went, "CIA." And the judge said, "Speak up. Where do you work? Where did you work?" And he went, "CIA, Central Intelligence Agency." And I know my reaction was one of. "Oh! This is not your average burglary."
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