Even as a boy, Gay Talese stood out. The son of an Italian immigrant tailor, he would wear his father's finely tailored suits to school, and later, to his first job at the New York Times. Even now, in his eighties, he seems like a candidate for a GQ cover. To be sure, Talese believes in aging with style. People his age should dress up more, he says. "Dress up for your dreams."
The man who turned journalism into an art form came by writing rather accidentally. He was on his high school baseball team, but didn't see much action on the field. One of the duties of the assistant coach was to phone the local paper with accounts of each game, a job he didn't much like. The task was then assigned to Talese, who enthusiastically accepted-thinking it would lead to more playing time.
Whether or not it did, Talese went on to be a reporter for the New York Times for almost a decade. He's also written for Esquire, The New Yorker, and Harper's Magazine, among other national publications. He's authored eleven books, including The Kingdom and The Power, about the New York Times, and Thy Neighbor's Wife, a book about sexual mores in the United States that was shocking for its time. His latest book, A Writer's Life, is about just that: Talese says, "Writing is often like driving a truck at night without headlights, losing your way along the road, and spending a decade in a ditch."
Talese shows us the progression of his image as borne out in the photographs on his book jackets. "If anyone ever needed evidence of their own aging, be an author and look at your own book covers."