The New York Times has discovered President Bush’s latest character flaw: he is a fan of Tom Wolfe’s new novel, I Am Charlotte Simmons, a realistic portrayal of campus life today and the subject of an IWF panel.
“If you ask the White House what President Bush is reading these days,” writes Elizabeth Bumiller of the New York Times, “the press office will call back with the official list: ’His Excellency: George Washington’ by Joseph J. Ellis, ’Alexander Hamilton’ by Ron Chernow and, not least, the Bible.
“What the official list omits is Tom Wolfe’s racy new beer- and sex-soaked novel, ’I Am Charlotte Simmons.’ The president, a fan of Mr. Wolfe, has not only read the book but also is enthusiastically recommending it to friends.”
The Other Charlotte noted in a brilliant review of I Am Charlotte Simmons that the book has received mostly negative reviews from the elite reviewers. They simply didn’t get the book–in much the same way they didn’t grasp that George Bush had a pretty good chance to win the 2004 election because voters have a more old-fashioned grip on morals than the blue state opinion makers.
“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.
“Mr. Wolfe’s novel is about an 18-year-old scholarship girl from the North Carolina mountains who treasures her virginity. When freshman student Charlotte succumbs to loneliness, vanity, the status urge and the heedless debauchery she finds at the elite Ivy-esque Dupont University and lets herself be deflowered by a frat-boy cad at a drunken orgy, author Wolfe, turning serious, treats the matter as a tragedy.
“With few exceptions, the critics have hated the novel….”
As might be expected, Bumiller is condescending about Bush’s admiration for Charlotte Simmons:
“Does Mr. Bush like the book because it is a journey back to his keg nights at Deke, or because it offers a glimpse into the world of his daughters’ generation? Or does he like the writing? Or is it all of the above? The White House won’t say. Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, did not respond to phone calls or e-mail messages last week asking about Mr. Bush’s interest in Mr. Wolfe’s book.”
Isn’t it just possible that the president likes the book because it is an important (if flawed) evocation of campus culture and one of the few really serious attempts to deal with the aftermath of the sexual revolution and the hooking-up culture on campus (two reasons IWF felt it was worth a whole symposium)?