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The Pump House Gang

3.57  ·  Rating Details ·  884 Ratings  ·  41 Reviews

Tom Wolfe's second collection (1968) takes it title from a redoubtable surfing elite, many of whom abandoned the beach for the psychedelic indoor sports of the late sixties. Wolfe here continues his fieldwork among noble savages, from La Jolla to London.

Paperback, 244 pages
Published July 1st 1985 by Bantam Books (first published 1968)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,527)
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Tiny Pants
Aug 16, 2008 Tiny Pants rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: die-hard Tom Wolfe fans
My edition is way older than this, but this was the only one with a picture. The previous owner unfortunately underlined heavily and inserted helpful margin comments throughout ("GREAT!!!!!"). I read this book, along with basically the entire Tom Wolfe ouevre (excluding things I had already read or had of yet to be published) my freshman year of college, I decided to re-read it mostly I guess because the title vignette is about La Jolla in the '60s. Unfortunately, it doesn't really hold up to re ...more
Richard Knight
When Tom Wolfe sticks to one subject, like astronauts, he soars. When he puts a collection together, he falls flat on his face. Thus is the case of The Pump House Gang, which is an assortment of articles that is heavily lopsided since it's great at times, and a total bore at others. The biggest problem is that the boring stories far outweigh the interesting ones. Also, Tom Wolfe's exuberant writing style grows stale over time when there isn't a solid base behind it. I know this book was meant to ...more
Aug 02, 2011 Travis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
i was a bit wary (prejudiced), because hunter thompson always talked mad shit about wolfe...called him a shameless phony, etc...maybe h.s.t. was a little bit threatened by wolfe. this book documented some interesting social scenes, and (to my pleasant surprise) it was full of muscular, provocative language and imagery. he only occasionally goes out a little too far on the ledge in trying to throw in the "authentic" slang, which comes across feeling a little forced. also, i was impressed at his a ...more
Dec 24, 2007 Chris rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Trying to get in the spirit of visiting Southern California, where I am clearly a stranger in a strange land, I decided to pick up The Pump House Gang at a bookstore in La Jolla, mere steps from where the title essay is set.

That essay is not only ingenious but should be (and in many cases, is) required reading for would-be feature writers. There are also brilliant, if now dated, vignettes about the lives of celebrities, like Hugh Hefner and Marshall McLuhan, and the unsung, like two rags-to-rich
Jan 03, 2009 mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There is an impressive range in this collection of essays, from the early California surf grom scene ("Pump House Gang"), to the pioneers of silicon breast implants in San Francisco ("Put-Together Girl"), to Hugh Heffner's eccentric lifestyle ("King of the Status Dropouts"), to a couple of ascendant art collectors in New York ("Bob and Spike"). All of them published in 1968 at that. My favorite piece was the last, in which Wolfe walks around New York city with an anthropologist who is interested ...more
Steve Hersh
Jun 08, 2016 Steve Hersh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What an incredible collection of essays. Tom Wolfe was clearly at the top of his game in the 1960s with these fantastic entries in the New Journalism canon. The two best essays, in my opinion, are the profiles of Hugh Hefner (King of the Status Dropouts) and Marshall McLuhan (What If He Is Right?) But all of these are worth a read. This is the third book of Wolfe's that I read. It bests "From Our House to Bauhaus" and reaches the same heights as "The Right Stuff." Great great great!
Jul 29, 2008 Kirby rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
this essay collection is excellent, covering figures who have achieved status levels outside of the mainstream social hierarchy. his subjects are rascally surfer kids, strippers, and the O.G. of creepy old men, hugh hefner. i think tom wolfe is getting pretty annoying in his old age, but this (written shortly after kool-aid) is one of his finest, in my opinion.
May 24, 2015 Tim rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
hrm. I expected to like this a lot more than I did. Most of the time I couldn't stand Wolfe's writing style- it just felt really forced (and dated, but that's to be expected). When you read HST, he sounds like the lunatic you know he was. When you read Talese, he writes straight but incorporates literary techniques into his nonfiction. But Wolfe... he just sounds like a cop. Like, he writes as if he was in the middle of the action but if this dude was hanging around the party he'd be in the corn ...more
Oct 22, 2008 Andy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Sixties fans
My favorite Tom Wolfe book. Selected subjects include pieces on West Coast surfers, British mods (Noonday Underground), Hugh Hefner, weekend bikers, stripper Carol Doda, Marshall McLuhan and more demented Wolfe sketches that predate old Ralph Steadman by a hoot-owl's age. Highly recommended.
Mar 15, 2010 Joel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: compilation
A wide-ranging collection of essays, almost all written within a 12-month period.

Many germinal ideas here which crop up with greater depth in more focused books from Wolfe, so apparently he had fondness enough for the content to use it as an outline for works to be published later.
Tom Marcinko
Yes, but the copy I'm reading is an old paperback with a cover so pink it leaves permanent scars on your cornea.

But of course! It's--Tom--WOLFE!!!

Halfway through, I'm wondering what McLuhan would have made of the Internet.
Aug 09, 2007 Jrobertus rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thought I was going to wet myself laughing at this book. Even so, it is a most interesting look at American culture in the 60's. I should re-read Wolfe's stuff to see if it has dated.
Dec 12, 2008 Emma rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-at-college
Not quite sure what it is about Tom Wolfe, but his style is like strangling yourself. I think his writing style is really one of the worst I have ever encountered.
Sep 22, 2008 Moses rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Daydreamers of surfing.
This was a real treat.
Surfer youth in La Jolla,
Hugh Hefner's strange living,
Topless waitresses,
and...hey waita minute...
oh yeah, that was in this one.

Jan 21, 2012 Tim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I would give a lot to write like Tom Wolfe. Read this if you travel to San Diego or any other surfing locale.
Doc & Charly
Articles culled from Tom's magazine writing career back in the Sixties. Well done but, obviously, dated.
Oct 29, 2009 Dave rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
dissapointing... either Wolfe is a dick or the old windnsea guys were racists; probably both.
Derek Baldwin
Jul 28, 2011 Derek Baldwin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
More social history from the man in the white suit.
Jul 16, 2008 Brendan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mystery solved: youth is fleeting.
Nov 05, 2007 Adam rated it liked it
makes me miss california
Paul Haspel
Feb 15, 2013 Paul Haspel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: san-diego
Placing Tom Wolfe's The Pump House Gang within the context of its time is both challenging and rewarding. This collection of essays, published in book form in 1968 after virtually all of the essays had appeared in publications like New York or the London Weekend Telegraph between 1964 and 1966, beckons to us from a time that is as long-ago for us as World War I was for Wolfe's original 1960's readers. The original circumstances of the publication of these essays -- Sunday-magazine supplements fo ...more
Allan Azulbotón

La banda de la casa de la bomba
El Hombre del Medio del Atlántico
El rey de los marginados millonarios
La chica trucada
Underground del mediodía
Los Muchachos de la Melena
¿Y si tiene razón?


Bob y Spike
El nuevo libro de etiqueta de Tom Wolfe
Vida y desventuras de una niña pija londinense
El hotel automatizado
El shockkkkkkk del reconocimiento
En la sentina conductista
Nov 30, 2015 Kelli rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wolfe's penchant for stylized interjections thankfully isn't as prevalent here as it was in "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test." Interesting vignette on the mod lifestyle of the 1960s.
Rebecca McNutt
This book was kind of interesting, but I didn't find it as good as some of Tom Wolfe's other works, although the 1960's theme gave it something kind of different.
Aug 09, 2015 Stephen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
To read Wolfe is to travel back to a New York City that no longer exists. He makes me see dusty landmarks such as the Sixth Ave Hilton with new eyes.
Aug 13, 2014 Garry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's been a long time since I read this and it might be time for a re-read. I just remember really enjoying it.
Nov 05, 2015 Xavi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Temas algo pasados, temas con toda la vigencia pero siempre enfocados de forma brillante. Retrato de una época desde ángulos a veces no vistos. Merece la pena, una vez mas, leer a Wolfe.
Michael Fraser
This one hasn't aged well. Wolfe is as grating as he is dazzled by his own seeming insights into the 1960's.
Jan 13, 2015 Derek rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
read travelling Indonesia in 1990:
Pat Murphy
Jul 26, 2015 Pat Murphy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have always enjoyed Tom Wolfe. This was no exception.
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Wolfe was educated at Washington and Lee Universities and also at Yale, where he received a PhD in American studies.

Tom Wolfe spent his early days as a Washington Post beat reporter, where his free-association, onomatopoetic style would later become the trademark of New Journalism. In books such as The Electric Koolaid Acid Test, The Right Stuff, and The Bonfire of the Vanities, Wolfe delves into
More about Tom Wolfe...

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