Gay Talese Shames Us at the Launch of ‘Lapham's Quarterly’

Gay Talese
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As expected, reproofs of modern American journalism were flying Wednesday night at the launch of Harper’s editor emeritus Lewis Lapham's new magazine, Lapham’s Quarterly, the first issue of which contains essays and correspondence on the topic of war from writers as diverse as Sun Tzu and Mark Twain. Needless to say, neither of them was at the party. But Gay Talese was!

He was missing Norman Mailer. "Mailer was out there mentally challenging, not worrying about anything that was contrary to prevailing thought," he said. "Today people worry about being contrary to prevailing thought. They don’t want to be out on a limb, don’t want to be a contrarian, don’t want to be unpopular, don’t want to be unpatriotic. That’s what has fucked up journalism. No one speaks for dissent. Who's the face of dissent today? Give me one name of someone who personifies dissent. Period. Zero. Nobody!" We felt ashamed. A tray of shrimp went by. "One of the real problems with technology is what it has done is bring things indoors," he said. "When reporters start getting embedded, it’s fucking over,” said Talese. “Over! I mean I never, never, never would be embedded. Never would be in matchbox with the military! Mailer, Wolf, Halberstam. They didn’t read the Internet! What has the Internet done? Indoors! People are sitting indoors and watching screens that are the parameters of their world. I don’t watch that shit! I want to go out there and make eye contact, go out from here to there, trap people, I don’t mean trap them. I mean see them, grab them, look at their faces. Indoors!" — Rob Fischer

Earlier: Ten Questions from a Non-Genius for Lewis Lapham