“I thought I couldn’t lose Halberstam’s friendship because of a little conflict over choosing subjects,” Talese told me after the service. “But he was determined to do that book on automobiles.”
“We never knew how to build the bridge back after ‘82,” Talese continued. “David’s brother Michael was shot around the same time [in 1980] and I told David in a letter, I think you’re making me Michael. Michael was a competitive doctor … and there was such competition between them … And I told David I’m not going to be your brother … I never felt competitive with David. I loved him; I always loved him. I never had a brother. I was hurt and he was very hurt.”
They remained estranged throughout the ‘80’s. Finally, one day in 1990, Halberstam picked up the phone and called Talese to tell him he had tickets to the Yankees. “When he took me to Yankee stadium it was like going back to that game in 1949,” said Talese. “It was a different game–but it was also a Red Sox game.” Last year, they spent Thanksgiving together in Paris, and Halberstam traveled to Wales for the wedding of Talese’s daughter.
In his eulogy, Talese recalled that Halberstam always had the best questions: “Is Condoleezza Rice a better concert pianist or secretary of state? Will the Times ever get rid of Michiko?”–and those lines got the biggest laughs of the day.
Many speakers recalled Halberstam’s love of fishing. Talese ended with his friend’s own words about that pastime, from the introduction to a new book called, The Gigantic Book of Fishing Stories:
“In my day job I am the most skeptical of men in one of the most skeptical of professions in a world which regrettably holds out fewer and fewer dreams the older I get,” Halberstam wrote. “But on the water, fly rod in hand, my dreams never desert me; I can look out and even when the river water is murky and deep and running too fast, I can visualize a trout, always of goodly size, rising to my fly, or if it’s a clear day in the Caribbean, I can see a handsome bonefish moving steadily on its anointed course toward our boat. At the last second breaking off the requisite two feet to hit my fly. On the water, as I am never without dreams, I am never without hope.”