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April 15, 1978 - Image 5

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Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1978-04-15

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The Michigan Daily-Saturday, April 15, 1978-Pag'

New
By OWEN GLEIBERMAN
THERE HE is, looking so amicable
and unruffled in a buttery-colored.
custom-made three-piece affair com-
plete with wedgewood blue matching
socks and shirt, aluminum-shiny white
shoes and velamint tie (wide - but not
too wide) fastened securely in place by
a gold tie-clip so as to extend outward
just so, like a waterfall, as it were,
cascading gently from the crest of the
knot; into the mannerly vanilla vest.
And while some might claim the outfit
is ... well ... pas ordinaire, there's no
denying he . has that charismatic
charm, that yummy unencumbered
feeling that is so playful ... so. . . ador-
able (nobody influences hin!) amidst
this veritable department store of drab
fuzzy sweaters and jeans and
Wallabees and tan sportcoats flowing
around Rackham auditorium as the
Hopwood winners, their friends and
families and literature-lovers in
general gather for a rousing afternoon
of writers' pep talk.
But then, no one ever claimed that
Tom Wolfe belongs in the mainstream.
As author of The Electric Kool-Aid
Acid Test, Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing
the Flak-Catchers, and other excur-
sions into the world of American fads
and cultural behaviorisms since World
War II, Wolfe has made his name by
paving new ground. Since the mid-60's,
when he gained notoriety as the prophet
of the "movement" later christened the
New Journalism, Wolfe's glittering
style and genius for social observation
have earned him, as a journalist, an
unprecedented place in America's
literary scene.
AS THIS YEAR'S speaker at the
Hopwood Awards ceremony, Wolfe
spoke on "Literary Technique in the
Last Quarter of the Twentieth Cen-
tury." He included a fair dose of
polished stand-up comedy while
arguing the need for "crystalline"
realism in writing, leading his cap-
tivated audience through a whirling
maze of "fun anecdotes" and literary
allusions.
Wolfe's thesis - at times throughout
all this bordering on polemics- was
the necessity for incorporating aspects
of "reporting" into more fictionalized
forms of writing. In the case of French
novelist Emile Zola, Wolfe claims that

Journalist in

01 fe's

Co'

such attention to objective detail
"brought with it the most powerful
metaphors in French literature." Wolfe
has a passion for words that are
diamond-edged, for the mot juste upon
mot juste. It is understandable that he
feels that high-voltage novelist Philip
Roth "has no peer." Wolfe's specialty is
an uncanny ability to organize words
into vibrant, pulsating patterns that
arrive at the essence of their target.
Speaking to Wolfe several hours
before his talk, I asked him how he
came upon his various stylistic
techniques. He.related the inspiration
to his initial experiences as a journalist.
Many of his pieces will open with a
chaotic barrage of flashy adjectives
and idiomatic "code"-words (i.e., a
surfing gang's cult-password of "mee-
dah"), whose meaning gradually
emerges throughout the article.
Writing features for Sunday newspaper
supplements, he found "you had to grab
the reader's attention very quickly and
you had to hang on tight, and I figured
one way of doing this was to do what in
movie terms would be to start the
movie with an extreme close-up. A
close-up has to excite some sort of
curiosity, and then you gradually pull
back and reveal -the whole form of
which you've shown only a small part.
It was originally done because of jour-
nalistic motives, but it began to intrigue
me as a literary device, too. It can be a
way of creating small-voltage suspen-
se."
WHEN WOLFS began writing his
magazine pieces (mostly for Esquire
and New York), he claims "there was a
convention among magazine writers
that you should strive for understan-
ding, and that you created emphasis by
underemphasizing terrible things .. -
Well, this had become such a conven-
tion that it was boring people. So I
decided just to turn the whole thing
around and start overstating, to call at-
tention - just to wake everybody up."
One can't argue that Wolfe failed to
reach his goal. Not that absolutely all
his subjects lay in the hotseat of con-
troversy - it's just that in every one of
his articles, Wolfe concentrated on
delving beneath the surface of his sub-
ject and transmitting the feelings and
attitudes of those he observed. Wolfe's
"objectivity" is akin to that of
documentary filmmaker Frederick

Wiseman. His reactions may filter
through implicitly (foolishness, objec-
tively related, is still foolishness), but
the reader is allowed the final
judgement, free of the author's
diatribes.
Perhaps because of his interest in ob-
jectification of experience, Wolfe
laments over a decline in the quality of
"student writing in general. "There's
certainly been a decline in the teaching
of writing," he claims. "I don't mean
creative writing essentially. There's
just so much less emphasis on writing
than there was twenty years ago. And I

Wolfe (referred to throughout as "my
namesake") based one of his charac-
ters in Look Homeward, Angel on an
unknowing and belatedly disapproving
acquaintance. Following publication,
the ex-friend was "waiting at the North
Carolina state line" with hemp to lynch
him with. Says Wolfe (the journalist),
such hostilities "were the actual
origin of his famous phrase that took on
mystical outlines, 'You can't go home
again.'"
"WHAT SO MANY writers don't un-
derstand," claims Wolfe, "is that this

wallet manufacturer was out on *the
discotheque floor with his shirt unbut-
toned to his sternum and a lot of
aluminum chainwork around his neck
with his red eyes beating out of his
walnut shell eyelids doing the watusi to
hully-gully and the new boogaloo till the
onset of dawn or saline depletion,
whichever came first." The audience
responded enthusiastically to this
momentary lapse into Wolfean stream-
of-consciousness.
"IN THE 70'S," says Wolfe, "we're
only a short step away from the time
when there will be a much more
profound change in the appetite for the
real of the most talented novelists."
Wolfe's concern for infiltrating con-
temporary writing with this "realism"
tends to be excessive.
It is abundantly evident in his own
writing, from the incredible care taken
to providing masses of meticulously
gathered detail. In Radical Chic, for
example, when speaking of the New
York apartment of Leonard and Felicia
Bernstein and their now legendary par-
ty for the Black Panthers, Wolfe took
pains to describe the "white silk shade
with an Empire scallop over one of the
windows overlooking Park Avenue. Or
maybe it isn't silk, but a Jack Lenor
Larsen mercerized cotton. ." In much
of Wolfe's work, the brand name is the
message.
Wolfe urges that young writers leave
themselves open to whatever
phenomena surround them. Only then
will it be possible to explore what Wolfe
perceives as a "hole you could drive a
truck through" in the chronicle of
American cultural experience. The
feeling of freshness in all of Wolfe's ar-
ticles, an ecstatic glee by which he em-,
braces his subjects for their buf-

;ning
foonery, is a testament to the sense o
openness he brings to his writing. "N
matter how much of a genius a write
may be," says Wolfe, "no matter wha
facility a writer has with words, or hov
much music a writer has in his soul
there is no one human mind that cad
possibly conjure up the range of thing:
that are actually happening out there-ii
the real world."
-
,
-a t
w14
Wolfe's next book, about the A olIk
astronauts, is nearly finished (the fibi'\
section was published in Rolling St.oRe1
several years ago, and he's beern
working on it ever since). Wolfe told me,
what attracted him to that particular
subject was that "here's sometii 'gI
that's tremendously well-known - i!
been written about many, many tirpes
- and there what intrigued me was tlka
after all the things I read on the
astronauts, I had never read anything
that really got inside their lives." "'
True, but no doubt Wolfe will find'a
way.

think the reason is that litera
ded so rapidly that it beg
assumed that you learn to wri
you learn to talk. And it just is
Wolfe's literary style has of
books to be dubbed "journ<
tion" (particularly the novel
tric Kool-Aid Acid Test), but
he's concerned, he's far fror
to take that course. Throughc
ture, Wolfe related anecdot
ning writers who had novel
biographies by changing the
we may believe Wolfe, noveli

Daily Photo by WAYNE CABLE
Tom Wolfe
acy expan- material that they use from their own
gan to be lives should be regarded as a form of
te the way involuntary reporting, reporting you
sn't true." didn't mean to do." Wolfe recommends
ften led his that writers avoid limiting themselves,
alistic fic- and search beyond their own experien-
istic Elec- ce for inspiration: "So many novelists
t as far as are consuming their lives at a ferocious
m the first rate to get material for their work, and
out his lec- suddenly, there's just not enough fuel
es concer- left - you just can't keep doing this."
lized their To churn out a novel after twenty years
names. If of living, and then another out of the
st Thomas next five, is, in Wolfe's eyes, "a little bit
uneconomical."
Speaking about the 60's, Wolfe
declared "this was a wild, manic, ex-
traordinary era, and the talented young
writers weren't looking at it; they were
not writing about it ... There wasn't
ting. Kate even any sort of faculty to record the
ig short of amazing era of affluence in the 1960's,
h ter when every single. 58-year-old vinyl

MEDlATRICS
presents

PAPER CHASE
TIMOTHY BOTTOMS plays a first year law student striving to do well academ-
ically, and date his professor's daughter at the same time. By the end of the
film he decides just how important grades really are. Definitely an appropri-
ate film for the end of the semester.
Saturday, April 15 7:30 & 9:30 Nat. Sci. Aud.
Admission $1.50

" r.
i;
'l
, '
tip

L out'Circ

By NINA SHISHKOFF
THE TREND= in theater at the
moment seems to be toward the
spectacular. The main attraction of On
the Twentieth Century, a musical
playing in New York, seems to be the
scenery, an elaborate train set that
does more than the actors. In some
plays more thought seems to go into the
costumes than the script. It is when the
complexity comes from the plot, the
cleverness from the dialogue, that a
Full Circle
schorhng Auorium
April13 -16
By Erick Maria Remarque
Anna Walter..... ....... Kate Conners
Erich Rohde ............... Thomas Stack
Grete....................... Laura A. Hitt
Koerner ........... ..... eter Greenquist
Mack ........... ...... James Konwinski
Maurer .. .. ..................William Sygar
Schmidt....... .........Robert Meiksnis
Kott ........ .............Bruce G. Flynn
Russian Captain ........... Greg Rosenberg
Presented by the Actor's Ensemble
Daniel Kanter, producer and director; F. C. Noon,
sets; Thomas A. Coyne, lighting and sound;
Harriette Lewis, costumes
-'
play can shine from the simplicity of its
staging.
The Actor's Ensemble's production of
Full Circle is simple. A shabby room is
the setting for both acts, and the fur-
niture and props are all the staging
devices needed. There's not a teacup on
stage that isn't used. The lighting is
simple and direct, and the special effec-
ts are limited to the sound of a radio and
a single onstage gunshot. This is the
way it has to be, because Full Circle, a
play by Erich Maria Remarque, is
packed with complexity.
IT OPENS simply enough. The set-
ting is Berlin, in the last days of the

war. Anna Walter lies in bed during an
air raid, only wanting to be left alone.
Then a concentration camp escapee
breaks into her room. He needs to be
hidden from the Gestapo. The man who
was supposed to help him, the man who
used to live in Anna's apartment, is
dead.
Will she help him?
Reluctantly, she does. He is Erich
Rohde, a German whose crime was to
write an indignant letter to the editor
about German atrocities. The real
crime, he thinks now, after seven years-
in prison, is that he didn't do more. He
borrows one of Anna's late husband's
uniforms, planning to sneak out when it
gets dark. Then the Gestapo comes.
Captain Schmidt suspects something is
going on, but can't prove anything. He
brings in a captured escapee, who jum-
ps out the window rather than betray
Rohde.
The plot, as they say, thickens. Anna
turns out to have betrayed her husband,
who was the man Erich had been
looking for. The Gestapo officer comes
back, in a slightly different guise. To
say more would be to ruin the clever-
ness and irony of what Remarque was
trying to do.
FULL CIRCLE abounds in irony, It's
about the importance of wearing the
right uniform at the right time, about
heroics and survival. It's about trust.
Erich asks Anna to trust him. Later,
Erich must decide if he can trust Sch-
midt.
It's also a surprisingly funny play.
The neighbor's maid provides the
comic relief, but more than that, the
dialogue is wicked. The suspense is
terrific, too, especially in the second
act.

The play depends on ac
Conners, as Anna, is nothin
cr~nfr+il dnir Tin hr

spectacurar,aepicun nerc earacte
with the perfect mix of despair and
humor. Anna may have shut out the
world, but she can't shut off her per-
sonality. Laura Hitt, as the maid, is
also good. It's hard topull off a comic
role, but Hitt manages to create a
believable character.
The problem is with Thomas Stack as
Rohde. It's hard to imagine what Anna
sees in him. Remarque writes in the
stage directions that he must be half
destroyed by the seven years in prison,
but still show a little of the great charm
and magnetism he once had. Stack
can't really convince us of either.
Full Circle could be called "heavy"
entertainment. It tries to say a lot,
sometimes ponderously, but most often
entertainingly. If for no other reason,
one could go see it for Kate Conners'
performance.
SUBJECTS WANTED:
Earn $3 in one hour. Participate in
interesting research on human
memory.
Call Kim, 763-0044,
bet. 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

-
The Ann Arbor Film Cooperative
presents at MLB
SATURDAY, APRIL 15
WIM WENDERS FESTIVAL
THE AMERICAN FRIEND
(Wim Wenders, 1977) 7 & 9-MLB 3
Wender's newest and biggest feature to date is a parage of great movie
directors-Nicholas Ray, Jean Eustache, Samuel Fuller-with Dennis Hopper
as the American friend. Bruno Ganz, Hopper's German friend, gets himself :r
involved in some pretty nasty business with these shady characters. The
action combines Paris, Hamburg, and New York in a blur of subways, N
streets, wharves, and automobiles. Travel, rock 'n' roll, with a pace that is a
totally new. In English and German, with subtitles. ANN ARBOR PREMIERE.
TUESDAY: David Bowie in
THE MAIN WHO FELL TO EARTH

Metropolis Film Society Presents

a different
set of jaws.
M LB Lecture Room 1
Friday and Saturday, April 14 & 15
Admission $1.50
Showtimes: 7:00 8:45 10:30
Special Friday Midnight Show

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FRANK CAPRA'S

1944

ARSENIC AND OLD LACE
An excellent cast including CARY GRANT, RAYMOND MASSEY, PETER LORRE
and PRISCILLA LANE works at breakneck speed in bizarre black comedy about
a nutty household run by two old ladies and distinguished by their arsenic-
flcvored elderberry wine. Grant is great as their perplexed nephew who
doesn't know the score.
SUN: THE MUSIC ROOM

CINEMA GUILD

TONIGHT AT
A s9:15

OLD ARCH. AUD.
$1.50

-CINEMA I I

A

1

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