Tom Wolfe died last week and the world of letters is a sadder world with his passing. Scott Kelly, the astronaut who spent almost a year in the space station circling our planet, wrote his obituary for TIME magazine: “The day I walked out of a bookstore with Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff, I’d only meant to buy some gum. But there it was on the shelf and it looked interesting so I took my gum money and bought the book. As I lay on my unmade college dorm bed reading about the pilots who became the first U.S. astronauts, I discovered something I’d never had: an ambition. In his great works of fiction and nonfiction, Wolfe made you feel as if you were there in the moment. The characters in The Bonfire of the Vanities seemed like real people in New York City and The Right Stuff mad me want to be like those test pilots. About 18 years after that day at the store, I made my first spaceflight.
“In 2016, I sent him a photo of myself holding The Right Stuff and floating in a module at the International Space Station and he responded the same day in a very Tom Wolfe fashion with made-up words and outrageous punctuation. “At last I can point with extravagant pride at what I have done for the USA,” he wrote. After I got back to Earth, we had lunch at the Carlyle Hotel in a corner booth. He showed up with his white three-piece suit and a cane with a wolf on top. I was starting to write a book myself, so asked him how he did it. “What do you mean?” he said. “I use a pencil.”
A-E is reading Kelly’s book, Endurance: A year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery, and will probably write a review of work for The Tribune.
Ever Wonder Where Richard III Went?
Here’s another A-E history lesson: His DNA-verified remains were found under a Leicester, England parking lot. Richard was England’s last medieval king and in history, literature and drama is portrayed as a hunchbacked villain who butchered his nephews to usurp the throne. Archeologists claim the tarmac covering him was part of the Greyfriars Priory that became the king’s tomb for 525 years. For great photos of what‘s left of his highness, click on TIME magazine and Richard III. Check out his highness’ scoliosis: His backbone looks like a quick tour of some of the back roads in Greater Jasper.
A Pope Who Tweets in Latin
Here’s a legacy for Latin-lovers who want to conserve the ever-popular tongue of ancient Rome: retiring Pope Benedict is foremost among you. "Unitati christifidelium integre studentes quid iubet Dominus? Orare semper, iustitiam factitare, amare probitatem, humiles Secum ambulare," the pontiff wrote. Baffled? So were many Twitter users, including this writer who probably remembers a handful of Latin phrases from high school long, long ago. "Benny, nobody understands a word of Latin!" read one response at the online messaging service. The pope's tweet meant: "What does the Lord command to those wholly eager for the unity of those following Christ? To always pray, to continually do justice, to love uprightness, to walk humbly with Him," according to Cambridge scholar Tamer Nawar. As this is written, the Pontiff hasn’t tweeted about anything similarly vital.
A-E’s culinary faux pas
A-E’s happily going to reunion with three college classmates at a superb Italian restaurant in Rochester. At least of those attending whom we’ll call Joe (because that’s his name) is a gourmet cook. This writer isn‘t. His favorite recipes involve microwave ovens, cans, cardboard boxes, water and, infrequently, milk and butter. No surprise that Classmate Joe decried A-E’s characterization of Marsala sauce as an Italian cuisine. “Try French,” Joe said slowly, as if speaking to a dull four-year old, “as in Marseilles.”
A-E, who writes this stuff near his microwave in Canisteo, will share some Greater Jasper road kill recipes with Joe at the reunion later this month.