DANCING WITH WOLVES: Thursday night’s National Design Awards crowd gave Tom Wolfe a rousing round of applause for loquaciously honoring Lifetime Achievement award winner James Wines. But the prized architect said his longtime friend needed some nudging. Wines said, “In order to coerce him to do this tonight, I told him, ‘If you don’t do it, the Cooper-Hewitt is going to get Kim Kardashian or Lindsay Lohan. Tom got really nervous and said, ‘OK, OK, I’ll do it, I’ll do it. It takes so long to bring them up to speed.’”
To be fair, the 82-year-old Wolfe is still putting pen to paper decades after “The Bonfire of the Vanities.” Dressed in one of his signature white suits, the author said next year he will release a nonfiction book that traces the story of the theory of evolution from 1858 to 2013. “Right now it’s funny and serious at the same time. With the inquisition that is taking place at the university level, there is so much space between the intelligent design people and the scientists,” he said. “There is a connecting thread which I won’t divulge.”
This story first appeared in the October 22, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Regarding his writing regime, Wolfe said, “Before I was married, I used to start writing at 2 p.m. and I would write for however long it took me to get my quota. At that time, it was 10 triple-space pages — about 1,500 words. But now after having children you can’t count on sleeping until noon, so I work in the morning to try to get it done by three or so.
“The only way to get it done, I think, is a quota system. You can spend days dancing around — at your desk — and it doesn’t necessarily do you any good. When you think of, my god, Dickens, he used to start at nine and write until about one and then he would have lunch and go exercise. He would go horseback riding and go speed walking, He would walk at three miles, at four miles an hour. That is fast. Dropped dead at 58 but nevertheless, he was on the right track.”
Credited with coining such phrases as “the right stuff,” “radical chic,” “the Me Decade” and “good ol’ boy,” Wolfe offered a different take on hipster: “Hipster is such an old word. It goes way back to the Forties, I believe. Then when the Sixties came that same world was people who were taking LSD, psilocybin and whatever it was. People who took LSD were called acid heads, but they couldn’t handle being called acid heads. So Newsweek, I’m not kidding you, invented the word hippie. They were trying to make it sound similar to hipster. They were trying to make a nice soft name. I don’t know if you ever saw the comic strip called “The Shmoo,” a cuddly little animal [from] “Li’l Abner,” so hippie is like a little Shmoo.”
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