Fame and Obscurity
Fame and Obscurity is a gallery of portraits of people: the famous (Frank Sinatra, Joe DiMaggio, Joe Louis); the celebrity in obscurity (Floyd Patterson); the infamous (Frank Costello); the once unsung Alden Whitman, writing memorable obituaries in The New York Times; the wild latter-day expatriates who staffed The Paris Review; and the stylized patricians who breathe the scented air of Vogueland.
It also contains two complete books. The Bridge is the story of the building of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. It is delineated in the lives of the people displaced for the project, the dreams of the designer, the death and drama among the Irish and Indians, who with the other "boomers," stretched the huge span across the Narrows.
New York: A Serendipiter's Journey is a collage assembled by a younger Talese, exhilarated by the city, finding delight in the subway-token seller's insistence on his individuality, the success of the chauffeur with a chauffeur of his own, in a dress rehearsal where the stage lights were the sole performers...and finding despair in fallen Eighth Avenue and boxer-bartenders who had touched success but never grasped it.
In these selections, Gay Talese explains in his introduction, he uses "fictional techniques for factual situations." As a painter might, he observes his subjects in action and reaction and records them so faithfully that the character within reveals itself. It is a method that made The Kingdom and the Power a best-seller. In Fame and Obscurity, it gives reality the excitement and intimacy of fiction.
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