Society Dreams: Gay Talese

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Looking up ...

Friday, May 31, 2024. Yesterday was another beautiful, sunny day in New York with the blue skies and masses of pure white clouds of all sizes and shapes. Against the powder blue skies it was quietly but massively spectacular.

Although when you live in the city, if you’re curious you’ll see that few are looking UP. Around, yes, but mainly head slightly (or totally) facing down … at their cells. They can’t help it. And it can’t help them, so it works out.

DPC with Gay Talese in 2018.

Today we’re running Lauren Lawrence’s “Dream” tellers, and her subject is Gay Talese, the distinguished author of real life tales. I knew he was older than I but had no idea of his age.

It turns out he was 92 last February which kind of shocked me because I think of him as “older” than I, in age maybe, but really rather young. Because he is; still that guy who was an experienced journalist when he got famous overnight for an Esquire Magazine article” Frank Sinatra Has a Cold.” 

He’s a guy who knows how to tell the truth and maybe leaves you with something to think about. Or maybe laugh. I read the piece back then when I was (almost not a kid anymore). And of course a “cold” was not exactly what Frank had, which Gay delivered in with his own ability to present (sometimes the worst) things but leaving you “getting the whole picture” about the man.

I had the pleasure of actually meeting Gay in the mid-90s. He has a beautiful and brilliant wife, Nan, who was a distinguished editor and publisher, a Vice-President of Doubleday. Now retired. 

We have met only in passing but they were both people who are “open” to people. They also have two very nice daughters who match their parents warmth and industry. Pamela Talese is a painter, some of whose work we’ve shown on the NYSD, and Catherine  is a photographer and photo editor.

Gay, Pamela, and Nan Talese out on the town.
Gay, Pamela, and Nan Talese out on the town. 📸Jared Siskin/©Patrick McMullan

Gay and Nan for many years hosted dinners and particularly a holiday party at their townhouse. For some of us it was definitely the party of the year because the atmosphere was the Taleses’ warmth in their charm. Homey too, here in sophisticated Manhattan. It is/was a gathering where everybody is friendly in the old-fashioned, neighborly sense; everybody even famous or “important” people; all a pleasure to experience. Gay and Nan made that possible in all of us.

Meanwhile, Lauren is prepared to show you another aspect/side of the man offering a peek into his consciousness.

by Lauren Lawrence

The Dream: I recall a dream that centered around my going to a hotel. It seemed that my house was either under repair, or unavailable to me, perhaps because of some construction. I was alone, going to the Pierre Hotel [in New York]. I knew somebody who seemed to be in management — an engaging woman who I had some recognition of, and a great connection with, walked and walked with me through these inside corridors, and answered my questions along the way.

Gay Talese at home. 📸David Shankbone.

I had no baggage. I followed her corridor after corridor, and I was never getting anywhere. I asked her, ‘Where are we, The Waldorf?’ Finally I wound up in another lobby, a second lobby where this room was. This room was in a corner of the lobby. I was dissatisfied. There were people around. And the bathroom was like those in Beijing — a primitive bathroom where people squat.

The Interpretation: In that houses represent the person, a house under construction signifies a transformative state: Something is being built, shaped, assembled or revised — appropriate symbolism for an author in the midst of writing a book — for this is the narrative construction in progress.

Leaving one’s house indicates the wish for emotional distancing and objectivity. There is recognition of an engaging woman in management who fields questions and shows the dreamer the way, because she has done so before: She represents the proverbial muse guiding the writer through the inside subterranean corridors of the imaginative unconscious. Although the path is circuitous, Talese remains on the ground floor, indicating the difficulties of the writing process.

Without belongings — baggage — comes a keener sense of self, and indicates a wish for detachment from the past. The lobby is the reception area symbolic of receiving and receptivity. The people around the room in the corner of the lobby represent an infringement of personal space — the necessary intrusion of novelistic characters perhaps. As writers are observers, residing in a corner of the public lobby affords Talese an otherwise inaccessible view of all the action. The primitive bathroom that entails squatting alludes to staying grounded, laying low, and roughing it out for a while until a transcendent moment is reached.

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