Tom Wolfe dubbed Gay Talese the founder of the New Journalism, but Talese himself has always been uneasy with the label. It isn't difficult to understand why. His style doesn't have the rhetorical braggadocio of Tom Wolfe's or Hunter S. Thompson's. Wolfe's and Thompson's principal contributions were amped-up, flamboyant adventures--producing a distorted, if amusing, view of the world--while Talese's legacy is more purely journalistic.

Talese represents a parallel tradition within the New Journalism. His legacy is twofold. First, he is the indefatigable reporter whose books and articles are the product of extensive research. Second, he is the poet of the commonplace, the writer who demonstrated that one could write great literary nonfiction about the "ordinary"-- whether ordinary people who discover themselves in extraordinary circumstances, or the ordinary lives of extraordinary people.


If the aim of most New Journalism is to write so vividly and report in such intense bursts that a scene leaps from the page, Talese goes in the other direction. He slowly drills down through the mundane subterranean reality of human existence to its "fictional" core. "I believe that if you go deep enough into characters they become so real that their stories
feel like make-believe. They feel like fiction. I want to evoke the fictional current that flows beneath the stream of reality," he says.

-- Robert Boynton introducing Gay Talese in
The New New Journalism