Derb on Wolfe

In our continuing coverage of books we haven’t read and don’t plan to, here is John Derbyshire on Tom Wolfe’s latest novel:

You can see that I am a big Wolfe fan. I therefore came to I Am Charlotte Simmons with high expectations, and was not disappointed. There are some nits to be picked, if I get round to it; but all in all this is a splendid novel.
[ . . .]

If you are delicate about language, or about sexual promiscuity, you will find Wolfe’s account of student life at Dupont University shocking. If you cleave to the old-fashioned idea that the principal function of a university is the promotion of higher learning and the life of the mind, you will be disillusioned. It never hurts to have a Nobel Prize winner on the faculty, but the real aristocrats at Dupont are the star athletes and frat-house swells. They, and everyone else, converse in what Wolfe calls “f*** patois” — every second word a profanity or obscenity.

The coarseness of their language reflects the coarseness of their lives — coed bathrooms, affectless recreational coupling, and heroic drinking. Over all hangs the terrible dispiriting blight of cool.

About the author

Kevin Holtsberry

I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season - oh, and watching golf too).

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