Bash Compactor: He Lives By ‘Night’

Written by Matt Harvey on . Posted in Bash Compactor, Posts.

Despite a long literary career, George
Plimpton was never far from the center of East Hampton’s—or Manhattan’s—
nighttime social firmament. So a few Julys after he passed away at 76,
his son Taylor packed his ashes tightly into a firework tube, lit
the fuse and watched it burst into a “smiley face” pattern against the
black sky above Amagansett’s Devon Yacht Club. Noting ruefully that
“bits of teeth and bone” were in the ashes, Plimpton, who has inherited
his father’s ski-slope nose, thick tousled hair and wide, amicable grin,
says, “It was hardcore—but an exhilarating experience.” It’s also the
definition of a hard act to follow, especially as Plimpton, a writer
himself, has chosen his own experiences whirling through early-aughts
downtown clubs like Lotus and Marquee as the subject of his first book, Notes From the Night.

Last Wednesday night, in front of Dumbo’s powerHouse Arena, where
he had just given a reading, I spoke with Plimpton about what it’s like
to try to carve out your own niche in the wake of one of the great
post-war literary icons. “It’s great to have people just look at your
writing, but when you do get something published, people will say that’s
the reason,” Plimpton says, taking a drag off of an American Spirit.
“There’s nothing I can do about it.” But he says even as a kid, watching
his father “suffer through every sentence,” he wanted to be a writer.

major thread running through Notes is how a devotion to nightlife can
freeze a man in a sort of perpetual late adolescence. “[T]hat’s the kind
of magical (and sinister) thing about the night: it freezes time and
you along with it,” he writes, in an effective Jay McInerneystyled
passage. Indeed, Plimpton, who is wearing an updated twist on a private
schoolboy uniform—baggy blue blazer and preppy tie—is a preternaturally
youthful 34. As for the difference between nightlife as it was
experienced by his father, a Studio 54 fixture who “never wanted to go
to bed,” Plimpton says, “The innocence is gone now, you can’t go out, do
tons of cocaine and have unprotected sex and think you’ll get away with