The overall takeaway from this article: the celebrated writer Gay Talese is despicable.
Yes of course his subject, the retired Colorado motel owner who spent decades hidden above his motel guests' rooms spying on them, most especially watching their sexual activities, is a disgusting creep of the highest order, a deeply committed misogynist guilty of criminal violation of, apparently, hundreds if not thousands of people. His crimes even extend beyond his decades of peeping tom-ism, for he also witnessed a murderous assault and left the assaulted woman, who was alive and might have been saved had he done anything, to die.
Remarkably, that's almost all anyone is writing about in the many articles and commentaries that have run since Talese's New Yorker piece was published. They're talking about the Colorado violator (he prefers what he apparently believes to be the more elegant term voyeur so I won't use it), about his pathology, his delusions, and, to some extent but not nearly as much or as outragedly as they ought, about his crimes.
They're talking very little about Talese and his crimes. For me, this is the news about the New Yorker piece. There's lots to be said, but it boils down to four things:
- Talese joined the motel owner up in his secret aerie above the motel and watched two people have sex. Talese did it. He committed the crime, even if not thousands of times (at least he only reports this one time.) Repeat: Talese climbed up there and watched through the screened peephole at least once.
- Talese knew for many years that the motel owner was doing it. He never tried to stop him, and he never reported the crime this pig was committing.
- Talese also knew, based on the motel owner's own written report, about his having witnessed the assault and left the woman to die. He did nothing about this either, neither trying to urge the guy to report what had happened, nor reporting it himself.
- Throughout this long piece, and assuming it's representative throughout the whole book, Talese's tone is basically sympathetic toward the criminal motel owner who violated the right to privacy of so many people. He wonders about why the guy is the way he is, he points out the guy's inconsistencies in reporting, his grandiosity and narcissism, but he evinces no horror, no revulsion. He becomes for all intents and purposes the guy's friend. By my read, Talese is troubled so little by the guy's actions as to amount to not at all. Nor, and of course this is the point,is he troubled in the least by his own, Talese's, complicity. And he is complicit, through and through, for years and years. Every few pages he throws in a phrase or a sentence to the effect of, hmm, I stayed awake worrying about whether I was doing the right thing, but it's so obviously pro forma as to be laughable. Talese has no compunction about any of it. The grand old man of "the new journalism" will no doubt have a grand old time on the book tour.
And that--its profitability--is what makes this book unimpeachable. In the publishing marketplace it's gold. Profit is the highest standard of morality in this stinking capitalist sinkhole of a country.