The Jury Is Now Out

15 05 2018


If ours was a just world, then in the coming decades, Tom Wolfe would be recognized as the most influential figure in American literature during his productive lifetime.

But, because our world is what I know it to be, I fear that, instead, he will be Robert E. Lee-ized, apropos, because the city of Richmond, Virginia played significantly in the lives of both of them.  And his most prominent work will be put in the same pile as Mein Kampf.

Tom Wolfe couldn’t even get his foot in the door if he was starting out today, ceteris paribus.





9 responses

15 05 2018

I loved that book – it was so dead on, relying on satire rather than anger.
He nailed NYC, though without touching on the white ethnics that, at that time, were still heavily present and in the process of white flight.

15 05 2018

Though, as you all know, Mizzou wasn’t about mau-mauing the flak catchers as it was deep state mutiny on the tiger.

15 05 2018

I will happily live the rest of my life without reading Bonfire. That being said, Norman Mailer and Updike hated him, so he couldn’t be all bad. He was a satirist of a kind but didn’t have enough pungency for my taste, as I like my satire cutting.

The New Journalism movement, of which Wolfe was one of the foremost practitioners, ended up going nowhere. I read The Pump House Gang, and it was barely readable. Too precious, and I suspect most of his other NJ work was similar. I started the Electric Kool Aid Acid Test and quickly put it down as it was totally unreadable. The only NJ that’s still readable is Hunter Thompson’s and he’s self indulgent to the point of autofellation (though his Campaign Trail ’72 pieces have some good bits).

There was a lot of bad, sludgy writing (and music, FWIW) during that era, and Wolfe seems to have been no exception. Something was in the water.

15 05 2018
David In TN

I remember when I first heard of Tom Wolfe. It was 1970 while in college. He had sneaked into a fund raiser on Park Avenue by Leonard Bernstein and other members of the NYC liberal set for the Black Panthers.

Wolfe wrote a send up of the event, “Radical Chic and Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers.” A liberal political science teacher I had approved it. That wouldn’t happen today.

A big part of Wolfe’s writing was status seeking–To achieve status in modern America, you spout the left-liberal zeitgeist.

I read “The Bonfire of the Vanities” when it came out some 30 years ago. From this came the term “Great White Defendant.” In the late Larry Auster’s words–what every ambitious prosecutor lusts after like Captain Ahab for the Great White Whale.

Wolfe’s depiction of the Bronx DA’s office is still on target. The mostly Jewish and Italian deputies are political liberals who went to law school “to make a difference.” What they find themselves doing every day is “pack blacks and latins off to jail.”

And these nonwhite criminals are almost always (when there’s doubt they dismiss) guilty. The suspects do stupid and vicious things. Rather than the master criminals of fiction, they are just “simpleminded incompetents.”

I just checked some of the obits for Tom Wolfe. Terry Teachout, a neocon writer, observed that no New York editor would accept Bonfire today.

15 05 2018
David In TN

Also, Tom Wolfe came up with the term “Limousine Liberal” from the Leonard Bernstein party along with “Radical Chic.”

16 05 2018
16 05 2018
Sebastian Hawks

I know how the press seems to hate the Bonfire of the Vanities movie as if it were Ishtar and after seeing it on cable I know why. There is a scene in there where they show the exact process the media uses to anoint the typical negro hoodlum as “a good boy who wanted to go to college.” Same shit they did with the “No Limit Nigga!” Treyvon showing baby pictures instead of the gold toothed budding young thug. And similar to the “Cap and Gown” stock pictures of some cracked up punk who was put down by a vilified white Chicago cop while on a tire slashing campaign.

16 05 2018
David In TN

J-Pod’s parents founded Neo-conservatism because of things like Leonard Bernstein’s party for the Black Panthers.

J-Pod writes something good a couple of times a year. Here is his review of the Chappaquiddick film, about the same take as ours.

17 05 2018

And we have another Tom Wolfe – Mark Twain comparison.

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