Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Melissa Sweazy on Tom Wolfe's style:
Some bizzare public service for aspiring writers

Photo credit: The Selby

Melissa Sweazy is one of the most inspiring women I have met. She's a published writer, an amazing photographer and a bad-ass film maker. In fact, her short film John's Farm premieres at the L.A. Shorts Fest TODAY. Eeeek. Crazy, right?! We recently formed a writing tandem (it's a writing group for two) and I am so insanely excited to be working on my own writing and getting to learn from her! As Melissa was packing up to go to L.A., I asked her to contribute a piece to my Literary Style series! She tells us why she adores Tom Wolfe:

"I have discovered that for me, it is much more effective to arrive in any situation as a man from Mars than to try and fit in."
–Tom Wolfe when asked about The Suit
New York City, 1999. The plan was to be here, writing the Great American Novel. Instead, I am two years into a stint as a script reader/girl Friday in Los Angeles for a producer who makes me stave off her impending nervous breakdown by burning smudge sticks. But then I get the call. My mother, the fairy godmother. My father has to back out of a long planned trip to NYC and there are broadway tickets, dinner reservations, the Plaza! I don't remember the shows we saw, the restaurants where we dined. What I do remember is the gaspingly cold fall morning when I saw him. Perhaps more importantly, I saw The Suit. Three piece, exquisitely tailored, and white. (I am not so long gone from the South that I don't find this a little shocking) He moves down the Fifth Avenue sidewalk as a sea of black coats part around him. His head is not bent against the cold, but held high, likely to show off the matching fedora. If my memory is to be trusted, he has a motherfucking cane. I was too shy to stop him. What if I would be interrupting a ritual of his, some bizarre public service he performed for aspiring writers. Come to New York! See your literary idols look exactly like their book jackets as they pass you on the street! The man writes great, gorgeous, jazzy riffs on life and culture. But he dresses via scalpel. Razor sharp.


Thank you, Melissa!

Previously on Literary Style: Isaiah BerlinMichael Cunningham, Zadie Smith, James Ellroy, Joan Didion (I & II), Simone de Beauvoir, Eudora Welty and Virginia Woolf (in a rented bathing suit).


  1. His son went to my college in CT, and while reading Wolfe's "I am Charlotte Simmons", I couldn't shake a haunting feeling that the plot was happening, if not to me, then certainly on my old campus. Later, when I was a barista in New Haven's famous Koffee?, he once walked in, with company. I recognized his son, and as they were looking at the art on the walls, waiting for their coffee, I approached the tall white- suited gentleman and told him how much I liked his "Bonfire of vanities". We chatted and he encouraged me to write him to his NY address and send him my writing. And, my fairy tale ends here, because, as flaky as I used to be/am with my writing, I had nothing to send, but a Christmas card, which I then thought a clever reminder, a save-a-spot, yet knew would get lost amongst the tons of mail he must get.

    1. This is such a neat story! I'm surprised that he'd be this friendly and generous. Do you think he was just trying to be a cool dad?

      My heart ached for you a little bit... not being able to send him a story to read. I had so many opportunities in college that I either didn't recognize as such or didn't take advantage of because I flaked out. I'm still a flake but I have recently come to realize that I'm very sensitive to criticism and terrified of failure. Flaking out is my way of protecting myself. Which, of course, is totally messed up... especially because I'm extremely self-critical. Ugh.

      I haven't read "I am Charlotte Simmons', will pick it up.

  2. thank you, for returning to the blog

  3. Thank you for spotting. Thank you for posting.