One of my literary heroes of the past thirty years or so has been Tom Wolfe, he of the brilliantly tailored white suits and Richmond heritage. My first taste of Wolfe was his 1979 book, The Right Stuff about the Apollo astronauts. Then I read his first novel, The Bonfire of the Vanities in the late 80’s and was mesmerized by his craft as a writer. Then I had to wait 11 years for him to research and write the fabulous, A Man in Full. For some reason unknown to me, I didn’t read I Am Charlotte Simmons when it was published in 2004, so I bought the i-book version a couple of days ago for $9.99 and have been blazing through it ever since. I was so inspired to read Simmons because of the recent release of his fourth novel, Back to Blood.
I Am Charlotte Simmons is not an easy breezy read. It’s depiction of the often debased life of the modern American undergraduate experience, while true enough, comes awfully close to being merely raunchy. Its lurid portrayal of sexual debauchery seems excessively and unnecessarily descriptive for my taste. But the way Wolfe captures the cloistered arrogance of academia is worth putting up with the occasionally over the top raunchiness.
Can’t wait for Back to Blood, a book Wolfe publishes seven months after his 81st birthday. My man, Tom.