Tom Wolfe is the author of numerous books including Bonfire of the Vanities, A Man in Full, and most recently Back to Blood. He has been a Library member since 1991.
The following excerpt comes from addresses to Library trustees, staff and friends at an event launching the anniversary celebration on November 5, 2003.
I've more and more begun to appreciate the extraordinary job the people who select the books do to preserve human memory. It's an extremely hard-to-come-by talent. If I had my biggest homburg on I would doff it to you right now.
I think everybody should follow in the footsteps of Don Quixote at some point in their life. My doomed project is to rescue the American arts of all types from Europe. You know, we're independent in every other area of life, but not in the arts. Schoenberg paralyzed American serious music. In art, the whole American tradition was wiped out so all we have are European pass-me-downs in painting and sculpture. And poetry! Thanks to Mallarmé and Baudelaire and their acolytes T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound, a fabulous tradition of American poetry came to an end. There have been only four good American poets in the entire twentieth century, and you know who you are.
But here in the Library I found the original publications of the works of Vachel Lindsay, a name that doesn't ring many bells today. These books are priceless; I don't know why they lend them to me. Thanks to people like [acquisitions librarian] Steve McGuirl and Mark Piel, in my quixotic quest to rescue our arts, I haven't had to move an inch from the Society Library.