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The Pump House Gang

3.55 of 5 stars 3.55  ·  rating details  ·  795 ratings  ·  31 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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Tiny Pants
Aug 16, 2008 Tiny Pants rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  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
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
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
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
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.
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 5 of 5 stars  ·  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.
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.
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.
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 5 of 5 stars  ·  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.

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.
dissapointing... either Wolfe is a dick or the old windnsea guys were racists; probably both.
Derek Baldwin
More social history from the man in the white suit.
Mystery solved: youth is fleeting.
makes me miss california
Paul Haspel
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
Richard MacManus
Tom Wolfe's second collection, focused on status - or the "statusphere" as he terms it. He's based on London for many of the stories, NYC for others. Wonderful use of language, very colourful and original.
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.
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.
Dec 31, 2014 Victor marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Steven Mays
I almost stopped 3/4 of the way through because some of the stories couldn't hold my attention. When I got to the last 3 or 4 stories, I couldn't put it down.
Not one of his best collections - too much lingo, doesn't feel particularly relevant anymore.
Sara Hughes
I wanted to start reading Tom Wolfe, and this collection of essays was such a fun way to jump in. His insights into the emerging cultures of the 60s are fascinating and it's easy to draw parallels to today.
This collection of Wolfe's magazine articles from the mid 60's starts with a true bang but more or less goes steadily downhill after that. Still well worth skipping around the bad for the handful of gems.
I didn't read this, I gave up. I have too much stuff to read right now and I'm moving into summer where I mostly just read fiction, so something had to go. Maybe in the fall...
Tom Stamper
Captures the emerging subcultures of surfers and bikers and many other groups that are afforded specialized leisure time in the post- war boom.
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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...
The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test The Bonfire of the Vanities The Right Stuff I am Charlotte Simmons A Man in Full

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