“Bangs manes bouffants beehives Beatle caps butter face brush-on lashes decal eyes puffy sweaters French thrust bras flailing leather blue jeans stretch pants stretch jeans honeydew bottoms éclair shanks elf boots ballerinas Knight slippers, hundreds of them, these flaming little buds, bobbing and screaming, rocketing around inside the Academy of Music Theatre underneath that vast, old, moldering, cherub dome up there — aren’t they super-marvellous!”
— From ‘the Girl of the Year’
This is real writing. This isn’t ‘perfect’. This doesn’t tell — it doesn’t even show — it plops you right down in the middle of the scene. You’re there in a very visceral way. It grabs you by the goddamn collar, rips you out of your chair and transports you.
If you know who Tom Wolfe is, you might be thinking about how cool he must have felt writing this. Sure, we can see his genius now — Bonfire of the Vanities, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, etc. — and imagine how awesome and edgy and powerful and confident he must have felt as his words formed on the page.
And you may be right. But I want to venture a guess here (and I’m pretty sure I might be closer) — Tom Wolfe was probably scared sh*tless writing this for publication.
He was pretty much a newbee in ’62. He wasn’t famous. He hadn’t written any epic works nor had he been given credit for inventing a new form of journalism (although he was in the middle of doing it, he wasn’t yet recognized for it).
Writing stuff like this takes courage. It requires us to write from the core of our being, not from a template. It requires us to be human, not textbook. It requires us to realize that this might not work, but we do it anyways.
C’mon fellow writers/bloggers. We can do better. We gotta step up our game. Less banal perfection. More human imperfection.