Quote of Note | Thomas Mallon

weegee cover“I read old photographs for unexpected details, such as the faces in the crowd, the people witnessing what a historical novelist can only try to reconstruct. I keep photos around me while I write the way other authors keep music on in the background; they provide not only evidence but a kind of atmospheric stimulation. I don’t think I could have written Bandbox, a comic novel about the 1920s, without long exposure to that era’s madcap tabloid photography, and I can’t imagine Fellow Travelers, a novel I set during the McCarthy period, without the flash-lit, noirish Weegee photo that went onto the cover of both the hard-bound and paperback editions. For Watergate, the details of dress and facial expression in a photo of ‘the Rose Mary Stretch’—the president’s secretary attempting to re-enact how a gap in one of the Nixon tapes might have been created—told me more about Rose Mary Woods’s agonized embarrassment than any transcript of her testimony could.”

-Novelist and critic Thomas Mallon in The New York Times Book Review