Talese is always beautifully dressed.
He is so beautifully dressed that strangers will talk to him in the street – that waiters and hostesses in restaurants will want to do things for him – like find a special place to put his hat.
Talese’s father was a tailor – his mother ran a successful dress shop and he says his first idea of how to be special was through clothing.
His suits are made by a tailor in Paris whose father trained his father.
When Talese tells me that he sometimes goes to the gym in the afternoon I am tempted for a moment to ask what he wears but I don’t want to blur or complicate the image of him—bespoke suit – vest – pocket square – colored shirt with a white collar – cuff links—that I have in my head.
The care and formality of his appearance carries through into his writing.
Talese works at a desk with an enormous computer on it but the machine looks decades old – it is the computer of someone who views the computer as a more convenient form of typewriter and even that with reluctance.
Talese does not use the Internet.
Talese does not have e-mail.
In situations where other people would send an e-mail he will send a typewritten postcard.
On the wall above his desk is a white Styrofoam board where he pins up the pages he has written – notes to himself and ideas in progress.
Now seventy-seven years old Talese occupies the strange position of being both legendary and misunderstood.
His innovation was to apply techniques from the craft of fiction to his newspaper and magazine stories – giving them the shape and life of short stories—a style later referred to as New Journalism – which he originated in his days as a New York Times reporter in the fifties.
He gained attention with his artful magazine pieces for Esquire in the sixties – including ‘Frank Sinatra Has a Cold’ which the editors later selected as their best piece in seventy years.