A Life In Books: Gay Talese

Author of one of the most influential profiles in modern journalism--"Frank Sinatra Has a Cold"-- Gay Talese is now working on a portrait of his own marriage. PERI wanted to know which writers were influential to him . Gay Talese has a list:

1) "The Scarlet Letter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Religious hypocrisy in America--it's all there, and amazingly relevant.

2) "Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand. Dagny Taggert is a woman of gigantic ego, purpose and arrogance. She's Hillary Clinton.

3) "Mixed Company" by Irwin Shaw. He's a romantic--I am, too--and I wanted to write nonfiction in the spirit of his short stories.

4) "Underworld" by Don DeLillo. He writes astonishing scenes. Seagulls hovering over a garbage dump--you can see the seagulls, smell the garbage. The pieces of shoes: poetry. T. S. Eliot couldn't do it better.

5) "The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald, the writer who most influenced my life. "Gatsby" instilled in me a mistrust of the rich--especially in Long Island.

-- A classic that, on rereading, was disappointing:"Ideal Marriage" by Dr. Th. H. Van De Velde. A marriage manual. I stole it from my mother's shelf. It was a turn-on when I was 14. It's not a turn-on at 74.

-- The book you care most about having your children read: My own memoir, "A Writer's Life" --because I want them to know me as I see myself.