Bryce Wilson's Reviews > I Am Charlotte Simmons

I Am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe
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Feb 10, 08

bookshelves: literature

Sigh...

It's no fun writing a hatchet job, much less a hatchet job on one of your heroes. I read Charlotte Simmons about a year ago and hated it, but decided that the generousity of the Christmas Spirit might make it the perfect time for me to read it. Jesus it was even worse.

I love Tom Wolfe, his early journalism is alive as very few works I know. His critism is sharp and cutting and can make a whole school of thought look ridiculous in a clever turn of phrase. His novels are flawed sure but like his journalism the sheer verve and style of his prose carries them across whatever bumps they might have.

Until Charlotte Fucking Simmons.

The problem is that since Hooking Up Tom Wolfe has found himself fascinated by post modern philosphy. He's no longer concerned with writing about individuals but has instead decided to focus on the misfiring chemicals in their brain in a probablistic equation. He makes Kurt Vonnegut look like Saint Augustine when it comes to subject of free will and it's sucked the life write out of his books. It's heartbreaking.

Worse yet is he's lost his ear for society and character. Ms. Simmons who has been raised around meth mouths and shit kickers would not be shocked by an errant Silver Bullet Tall Boy.

The book goes from muddled to straight out surreal about midway through where Wolfe suddenly decides to play a two hundred page game of "Whose's going to bust Charlotte Simmon's Cherry." which would be bad enough if Wolfe didn't narrate the proceedings with the smirk of a dirty old uncle.

It's sad that Zadie Smith accomplished in a page long vignette in On Beauty what it took Wolfe 700 odd pages to not accomplish.
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