Bash Decisions

November 15, 2011

In “The Bonfire of the Vanities,” journalist-turned-novelist Tom Wolfe mocks feature writers, claiming that we’re all biding time before we try our pens at fiction. He’s right. Secretly, all style scribes long to be novelists, so we start at the bottom, at the lowliest of all menial tasks: party coverage.

The holidays are the prime season for what you might call gala and ball paparazzi. It’s fun for the guests, but young journalists like me have the heinous task of asking attendees, “What are you wearing?” It is Dante’s tenth circle, equivalent to waitressing at a Michelin-starred restaurant where you’ll never taste the duck confit. I’m not there to eat canapes or show off my dress; I’m working.

So, if you’re a gala-goer, help a poor reporter. If we ask the spelling of your name, don’t be offended that we don’t who you are. If we ask your profession and you’re a billionaire philanthropist, don’t say “bartender” and laugh as though we get your joke. We’ll take you at your word.

In short, please be kind to us minions working our way up to novelist this season. We carry notebooks filled with protagonists and villains. You decide the character you are.

Katherine Boyle reports on arts, museums and culture for the Style section.
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