Who’s afraid of Tom Wolfe?
The Other Charlotte had a splendid piece on why the new Tom Wolfe novel has provoked so much animosity from the so-called cultural elites in Sunday’s Dallas Morning News.
“The incomprehension of the elites about what is really going on in the heads of many ordinary Americans explains the torrent of negative reviews written about I Am Charlotte Simmons, Tom Wolfe’s satirical new novel about college campus life, which has vaulted into the best-seller lists,” writes TOC.
The novel is about Charlotte Simmons, a brilliant girl from the mountains of North Carolina who gets a full scholarship to a fictional Ivy League college called Dupont University. TOC notes that when Charlotte Simmons, eager for status in her new environment, loses her virginity to a drunken frat boy, Wolfe, “turning serious, treats the matter as a tragedy.”
Citing Michiko Kakutani of the New York Times, who found Charlotte Simmons “a willfully na’ve goody two-shoes … shocked by students who drink, talk about sex and dance suggestively with one another — as if this Miss Smartypants had never watched television or read a magazine in her life” and feminist Princeton professor Elaine Showalter, who found the book to be Wolfe’s “numbingly juvenile” take on “the sexual revolution that has arrived on campus since his own student days,” Charlotte Allen wrote:
“The critics cannot conceive of virginal innocence as something of value or of a culture that seeks to shield its young people from the moral debasement of the larger, media-driven culture — just as many cannot conceive that Mr. Bush’s moral sincerity and religious faith could have appealed to so many voters.
“In the eyes of America’s long-secularized upper crust, the sexual revolution was a gale wind of 1960s personal liberation, and virginity is a young girl’s burden — it’s called ’inexperience’ — to be sloughed off as early.”