Notes From the Night is a memoir about Taylor Plimpton’s many years frequenting New York night clubs. (His father is, of course, George Plimpton, a man of many hats—illustrious New York personality, founding editor of The Paris Review, pioneer of participatory journalism.) Despite or perhaps because the club scene might be, in Plimpton’s words, “the worst place in the world” to look for life’s answers, the after-hours arena of dreams, excess, and potentialities turns out to be the perfect place for him to begin.
Photograph by Landon Nordeman.
How would you describe your book?
It’s partly a memoir of my life out in the New York night, and partly a guidebook on how to live that life as best as one can: how to avoid its pitfalls and savor its sweetnesses.
You once described your book as “the kind of book moms don’t like.” Would you endorse that statement?
Not at all. On one hand I understand, to hear about your son or any kid destroying himself out at night is not something a mom wants to read about. But it’s a fact of life, in your late teens and early twenties, that’s just what people do: they go out. But I wanted to give people the tools to recognize the nonsense and look past it toward the things that do matter.
Were you concerned with creating your own style, your own distinct voice?
I wanted it to read like I was writing a letter to a good friend—as open and honest and natural as possible. I feel like that’s my duty as a writer, because in memoir, if you’re not being honest, what’s the point? I guess the hope is that if you’re really honest about your own madness, it actually turns out that other people can relate to it, too. In terms of being influenced by other writers, I love the long rambling sentences of Kerouac, and of some of Marquez—the three-hundred-word sentence that rushes on.
How long did it take you to finish writing?
About six years. Part of the reason it took so long was that I needed a little distance from that life before I could fully capture what it was about. Trying to write about it while in the midst of it was good for research, but it wasn’t good for finishing it—
Right, for clarity of mind—
—Very little clarity of mind. You know, you go out and you have a good time and take some good notes, and then you wake up the next morning and you’re utterly hung-over—the last thing in the world you want to do is sit in front of a computer to write. Read More