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Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  2,381 Ratings  ·  122 Reviews
The white liberal establishment encounters the newly emerging art of confrontation in two devastatingly funny essays exploring political stances and social styles in a status-minded world.
Paperback, 144 pages
Published October 5th 1999 by Bantam (first published 1970)
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May 01, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Still valid. Still extremely valid. Still so valid that you can see parallels of everything described in the book in regular life. I'm not a new your socialite, but the idea of radical chic applies to most every cause today. I do see group organizers on a regular basis, and they mau-mau as much as ever.
Jan 24, 2009 rated it liked it
Tom Wolfe, full of snark. Wolfe's best work The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, The Right Stuff, the early Esquire stories centers on character who he clearly admires. He's often called a great observer, but in truth, he's always been a better king-maker. More and more, Wolfe's tendency is to attack what he doesn't really understand. At this point, he presents himself as an aging, out-of-touch buffoon decrying oral sex and extolling the virtues of the Scotch-Irish.

"Radical Chic" is one of Wolfe's f

Mark Taylor
Mar 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Tom Wolfe entered the political fray with the two essays in his 1970 book Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers. “Radical Chic” describes a fundraiser that Leonard Bernstein and his wife Felicia held at their Park Avenue apartment for the Black Panther Party. Wolfe wasn’t actually invited to the party, but he saw the invitation on David Halberstam’s desk at Harper’s magazine. Halberstam wasn’t in, so Wolfe pocketed the invitation and RSVP’d to the party. Wolfe was struck by the incongr ...more
Grandma Sue
Jan 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found a hardbound first edition of Radical Chic and Mau Mauing the Flak Catchers in a used-book barn in rural Pennsylvania over the holidays (unfortunately without the cartoonish book jacket). It gave me an opportunity to re-read these two magazine articles, a 130-page snapshot of late 1960s liberal society written in Wolfe's "new journalism" style ("radical" itself). This quick read is such a hoot for anyone who came of age in the '60s. For those younger, it offers a different point-of-view t ...more
Kavitha Rajagopalan
Sep 14, 2007 rated it really liked it
The prejudices are clear - purportedly and expose about the hypocrisies of Upper-East-Side armchair liberalism, the author's voice clearly belongs to the crowd he criticizes. But nonetheless a hilarious, insightful piece of living history.
Jun 14, 2007 rated it really liked it
An absolute character assasination of the would be hip, open minded, liberal left wing. Reinforces "the more things change......" This is as true of an indictment today as it was 37 years ago
Aug 09, 2007 rated it really liked it
This is a series of vignettes of American culture in the 60's and 70's. I loved Mau-mauing the flak catchers. The flak catchers were government bureaucrats at the interface of public programs for the poor and the actual poor. One local entrepreneur ran a school to teach the biggest, strongest, most aggressive blacks to terrorize (or Mau-Mau) these people and thereby convince the flakies that they were the "natural leaders" of the oppressed community, and would therefore receive the most governme ...more
Jan 06, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone who has ever laughed at "Stuff White People Like"
"Radical Chic," the first long-form essay in this book tells the almost-too-good-to-be-true of Leonard Bernstein's soiree for his fellow New York glitterati and several key members of the Black Panther Party at his Park Avenue duplex. Wolfe's tone is about what you would expect. A hilarious, biting take on white guilt and the unbridled hypocrisy (temporarily replacing your long-time black servants with Latino servants so to appear more progressive, e.g.)resulting when revolution becomes fashiona ...more
Jun 03, 2007 rated it liked it
Had to read this for class too. I think his writing is flamboyent. In terms of content I really enjoyed it. I thought he was really writing about how everyone ignores the working classes. But for class we only discussed craft. Amazing how this style of writing only occurred in the sixties, it's kind of dated that way. If people were to write like this now, well some people do and when they do I find it cloying.
Nick Gibson
Oct 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The father of New Journalism (RIP) spends his epochal fusillade on two targets. First, the aesthetic progressivism ('radical chic') of the WASP elite during the Civil Rights era. Second, the masochistic corruption of LBJ's bureaucrats - the boots on the ground in the War on Poverty. Wolfe's prose is electric and vertiginous. In one sentence he generalizes about national trends or the psychology of whole classes; in the next he plunges deep to focus on a breath mint or the muscles around a cringi ...more
John Pistelli
It's a tiny bit arrogant of people to go around worrying about those less fortunate.
—Whit Stillman, Metropolitan

Stop me if you've heard this one before: it is a year or two into a conservative presidential administration—one that follows an epoch-making liberal one, and that was carried into office on a wave of resentful white populism. Social and cultural changes that once looked permanent now feel a bit insecure. An alliance between the cultural and economic elite with progressive causes, incl
Sir Michael Röhm
Wolfe chronicles the relationship between blacks and whites - specifically, empowered blacks and high-class or governmental "powerful" whites - during the period of the late 60s.

One essay chronicles the brief "radical chic" fad, in which New York intellectuals hosted meetings for groups like the Black Panthers and the Young Lords, all laced with Wolfe's typical acid wit and eye for absurdity.

The other essay covers the same period, roughly, in San Francisco, in which ghetto residents organised to
Ed [Redacted]
Jul 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
What a great little book. I really enjoyed Wolfe's adroit skewering of slumming wealth liberals in "Radical Chic." "Mau Mauing the Flack Catchers" is a little more of a mixed bag. Some useful observations and clever turns of phrase, but ultimately less satisfying than "Radical Chic."
Jason Ross
Dec 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Great stuff... Wolfe is a little bit of everything: Gonzo and independent in terms of journalism, satirical and accusatory in his attacks, libertarian and counter-culture in principle.
Jan 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Tom Wolfe is a genius writer in the pantheon of Hemingway. He devised the term "limosine liberal" and of course "Radical Chic". Remarkably this book reads like it was written in 2016 in the thrust of liberalism, social media, and political correctness. But it was written in 1970! Far ahead of its time and one could say Wolfe characterized the first seedlings of political correctness with that sapling planted in the late 60s. Who knows, if social media existed then the same nonsense happening tod ...more
Jul 10, 2013 rated it liked it
So it all started in the 1960s....
I've heard that said so often, but I didn't really believe it. But this book shows that it did. And what's worse, that everybody knew that it--whatever you define "it" to be--didn't work and was basically just a racket, part of the race hustle put on rich liberal whites and on the government bureaucracy to get media face time and money. They were even hollering about "reparations" back then.
And almost half a century later has any of it done any good? Has any pr
Jun 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobooked
I held this at arm's length for as long as I could.

Wolfe; just an overrated hack that got lucky a couple times due to liberties taken or lack of competition? Maybe but gosh darn it if he can't whip words together and put you in fascinating places.

- an onlooker to an argument between a Black Panther and Otto Preminger in Leonard Bernstein's co-op

- The Panthers and other gangs in a pre-Milk SF City Hall

The reader is great on the audiobook, and there were a couple instances where I rewound a good
Dec 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
Both essays are good, but ‘These Radical Chic Evenings’ is a must.
Apr 07, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Two interesting looks into racial politics of the late 60s/early 70s. The first is centered on a party thrown by Leonard Bernstein to raise funds for the Black Panthers and mildly chides the wealthy whites who have "right wing lifestyles" but "left wing outlooks."

The second piece I found much more informative (even taking Wolfe's observations with a grain of salt). It focused on how inner city minorities and local governments tried to use the momentum/desire for urban renewal. I particularly fo
Ori Fienberg
Aug 04, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfictionista
Tom Wolfe's middle name is Kennerly? Who knew?

Should you read it: yes. Even if it's dated at times Wolfe's writing is insightful, snappy, and often hilarious. It's also a short, blazing fast read.

This is one of many books that I, as a student of nonfiction writing, have had on my shelf for many years, and I'll admit, at times I've pretended I'd read the whole thing, rather than just the first 20 pages.

I finally picked it up, because I just couldn't read only Proust for the whole Summer, I don't
Chris Avery
Jul 26, 2013 rated it liked it
This was my first Tom Wolfe experience, and it was a good one. His sensitivity for finding the plate tectonic social themes within the anthropology of factional interaction was so dead on I often found myself wanting to raise a first muttering my own "right on" in solidarity. Radical Chic in particular was a very "objectively" (hah) focused piece of journalism patched together with weaving threads of humor, fashion sense, and contemporary criticisms. Wolfe's ability to find the relevant sociolog ...more
Like a lot of cultural movements of the second half of the twentieth century, “the New Journalism” or “gonzo journalism” did much to break up ossified patterns in a given field, raised up one or two genius figures… and for every genius, launched the careers of a half-dozen cheap hacks who could superficially copy them and who seemingly never, ever go away. So gonzo journalism gave us Hunter S. Thompson, one of the great American writers of his time. It also gave us Tom Wolfe, alas.

You start to s
Jul 16, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: art-history, satire
I mainly borrowed this combined volume for 'The Painted Word', his snark-filled take on the New York modern art scene.

As a student of art history I adored it and time has proved Wolfe's argument about the insular nature of the art world.

I enjoyed the other essays but they seemed a little more dated. I loved reacquainting myself with Wolfe's style.
Nov 12, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
I still hate Tom Wolfe.

Radical Chic was stupid; Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers was kind of interesting, but the only reason I finished it was because the whole book was approximately 130 pages long. Shut up, Tom Wolfe.
Mar 17, 2008 rated it really liked it
Okay, technically I read this in a packet in xerox reproduction form as part of an Introduction to Cultural Criticism class, my freshman year of college. I want to re-read this. Living in Oakland makes me want to re-read this, as I feel like I see this being re-enacted in the arts scene here.
Bruce Zimmerman
Jan 10, 2008 rated it liked it
I was on a big Wolfe kick, read about four or five of his books. I really enjoyed them
Jan 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
I don't remember too much of this book, other than reading it very quickly and enjoying it. Wolfe's shorter collections of essays, magazine pieces are all worth the time.
Jun 27, 2008 rated it liked it
i don't like this that much (which is ok b/c i found it in my parents book collection) but it seems like it might be a good catalyst for some internet research.
Jun 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: culture-politics
Funny little book of essays lampooning 60s/70s liberalism.
Jul 01, 2009 rated it it was ok
Wolfe is a smart-aleck.
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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
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