Paris Review - Tom Wolfe, The Art of Fiction No. 123

I couldn’t tell you in any analytical fashion, but I assume I realized instinctively that if I were going to write vignettes of contemporary life, which is what I was doing constantly for New York, I wanted all the sounds, the looks, the feel of whatever place I was writing about to be in this vignette. Brand names, tastes in clothes and furniture, manners, the way people treat children, servants, or their superiors, are important clues to an individual’s expectations. This is something else that I am criticized for, mocked for, ridiculed for. I take some solace in the fact that the leading critic of Balzac’s day, Sainte-Beuve, used to say the same thing about Balzac’s fixation on furniture. You can learn the names of more arcane pieces of furniture reading Balzac than you can reading a Sotheby’s catalogue. Sainte-Beuve said, If this little man is so obsessed with furniture why doesn’t he open up a shop and spare us these so-called novels of his? So I take solace in this. After all, we are in a brand-name culture.
8 weeks ago
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