Man from Mars
Thursday, August 18, 2011
Any of you catch that Fresh Air interview with Tom Wolfe the other day? The topic was Ken Kesey and the Magic Trip, the documentary that explores the now mythic road trip undertaken by Kesey, Neal Cassidy, and the Merry Band of Pranksters who dropped acid by way of breathing.
Terry Gross asked Tom Wolfe about his look, you know - the now iconic three piece suit -* and he told her a story about being a man from Mars.
He was working on a story about stock car races, and to fit in, he described what he felt was his casual green suit, matched with brown suede shoes and hat. After about two weeks of following around his subject, Junior, at the races, Junior politely informed Wolfe that his friends kept asking about the "little green man" who kept following him around. He realized his folly in that moment, that in trying so hard to fit in, he was missing the real story. There were details about the races he had been dying to know, but an insider wouldn't ask such questions...and wouldn't get much of a story.
So he decided right there to adopt his uniform and be the little green man, the man from Mars who is unafraid of asking whatever questions need to be asked in order to get to the heart of the matter.
As I heard him tell it, I remembered hearing this story in my freshman writing class, and while it serves as great advice for fiction writers, I think it's a good life lesson in general.
How often do we nod, say yes we have seen that movie/read that article/heard that joke /did in fact know that it was my turn to the dishes and just haven't when you have no frickin clue?
I am going to work on being a man from Mars this week. Anyone else unafraid to just pipe up and say I don't know?
* on a trip to NYC with my mom, she and I walked down 5th Avenue and passed none other than Mr. Wolfe in an elegant three piece suit. I don't think I could have been more excited than if Lady Liberty herself had pulled up her moorings and come over to shake hands.
photo of Tom Wolfe by The Selby