Books: Skywriting with Gus and Deke

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While waiting for his muse, the author took on other writing assignments, including a 20,000-word introduction to a book about the New Journalism. He also was married, 16 months ago, to Sheila Berger, the art director of Harper's magazine. The couple live in a town-house apartment at the heart of Bloomingdale country in Manhattan's East 60s. Wolfe, in fact, is the flaneur of Third Avenue, who enjoys few things more than window shopping and observing his fellow East-siders in their varying plumage. He himself owns nine $600 white suits, a style he says sadly has been debased by The Great Gatsby and Saturday Night Fever knockoffs. He recently went to yellow silk, but notes that the suit is so loud "dogs skulk away."

Wolfe's unchanging style of expensive elegance is clearly a harmless form of aggression and a splendiferous advertisement for his individuality. The game requires a lot of reverse spin and body English but it boils down to antichic chic. Exclaims Wolfe proudly: "I own no summer house, no car, I wear tank tops when I swim, long white pants when I play tennis, and I'm probably the last man in America to still do the Royal Canadian Air Force exercises."


"A young fighter jock was like the preacher in Moby Dick who climbs up into the pulpit on a rope ladder and then pulls the ladder up behind him; except the pilot could not use the words necessary to express the vital lessons ... He wanted to associate only with other fighter pilots. Who else could understand the nature of the little proposition (right stuff/death) they were all dealing with? And what other subject could compare with it? ... To talk about it in so many words was forbidden, of course. The very words death, danger, bravery, fear were not to be uttered except in the occasional specific instance or for ironic effect. Nevertheless, the subject could be adumbrated in code or by example. Hence the endless evenings of pilots huddled together talking about flying. On these long and drunken evenings... certain theorems would be propounded and demonstrated—and all by code and example. One theorem was: There are no accidents and no fatal flaws in the machines; there are only pilots with the — wrong stuff."

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