Well Said (Wolfe)

I found a great many pieces of punctuation and typography lying around dormant when I came along—and I must say I had a good time using them. I figured it was time someone violated what Orwell called “the Geneva conventions of the mind” … a protocol that had kept journalism and non-fiction generally (and novels) in such a tedious bind for so long. I found that things like exclamation points, italics, and abrupt shifts (dashes) and syncopations (dots) helped to give the illusion not only of a person talking but of a person thinking. I used to enjoy using dots where they would be least expected, not at the end of a sentence but in the middle, creating the effect … of a skipped beat. It seemed to me the mind reacted—first! … in dots, dashes, and exclamation points, then rationalized, drew up a brief, with periods.

Tom Wolfe

The Birth of the New Journalism

New York Magazine (1972)

One thought on “Well Said (Wolfe)

  1. Thank you for your excellent writings Steve.
    Thoughts on Tom W: I was right there with him to usher in The Birth of the New High School Expository Essay, storming the steps of the ivy covered brains and breaking down the tablets that commanded that only the dull, witless, regurgitation of well-known facts could be considered worthy. Literature was a journey of discovery, and my essay reader would feel it in my neck turning em dashes! Sadly, Mrs. Stremmel didn’t get the memo that a new dawn had arrived… C+ Mr. Paul. You have potential but mind your sentence structure… Please see me, Mr. Paul. I don’t think you understood the assignment… I would have gladly complied, Doris, but I just couldn’t. I didn’t know how to think any different. Thank God for Mr. A., a secretly gay – like that should matter but it was still the early 70s! – and greatest English teacher to have blessed the halls of any prep school anywhere. He was a leader, an ally, a mentor, and a cheerleader. He saved me from something dreadful.

Leave a Reply