Two weeks ago, octogenarian and pioneer of “new journalism” Gay Talese answered a question badly at a Boston University conference. Poet Verandah Porche asked him what women had inspired him most “as writers.” After repeating the question to confirm it, Talese answered:
As writers, uh, I’d say Mary McCarthy was one. I would, um, [pause] think [pause] of my generation [pause] um, none. I’ll tell you why. I’m not sure it’s true, it probably isn’t true anymore, but my — when I was young, maybe 30 or so, and always interested in exploratory journalism, long-form, we would call it, women tended not, even good writers, women tended not to do that. Because being, I think, educated women, writerly women, don’t want to, or do not feel comfortable dealing with strangers or people that I’m attracted to, sort of the offbeat characters, not reliable.
Talese went on to say that women excelled at fiction, possibly because educated women were not comfortable around the kind of “antisocial figures” he had made the focus of his career. It was a cringe-inducing answer. It’s also the kind you might expect from an 84 year-old man. But Twitter went ape.