Skip to comments.'I Am Charlotte Simmons': On the Normal, Degradation, and the Ghost in the Machine
Posted on 03/05/2005 8:07:19 PM PST by quidnunc
"What of soul was left, I wonder, when the kissing had to stop?" Robert Browning, A Toccata of Galuppi's.
In this hour of "bests," some will tell you the last restaurant they went to is the absolute best the ribs or the Caesar salad, the filet or the yummy breads or the obscene desserts with more goop than anywhere else. For others, it's their golf clubs or their car. For still others it's the last book they read such as, in this case, Tom Wolfe's I Am Charlotte Simmons.
The chichi critics have panned Charlotte for two primary reasons: (1) envy of Wolfe, right up there with Hemingway as the most before-and-after prose stylist of the past 100 years, combined with (b) resentment that one so literarily prodigious does not share their ideological Weltanschauung. Wolfe is emphatically not one of their own but one of us. (Unforgivably, that dunce George Bush likes Wolfe's stuff, has even given him a medal.) Besides, Charlotte is, well, you know, so exaggerated, so extreme.
Wolfe, of Richmond, has indicated Charlotte likely is the last of his fictional romps. His earlier Bonfire of the Vanities and A Man in Full were about the excesses of masculinity and urban/corporate conceit. Charlotte is at once more universal (far more have experienced college than the highest reaches of nouveau wealth), more autobiographical (e.g., is it mere coincidence that Charlotte shares with Wolfe a devastating bout of depression?), and vastly more philosophical. Though the Stoic philosopher Epictetus plays a central role in Man in Full, the philosophical questions asked in Charlotte (Does the soul exist? Is man a creature truly possessed of free will? What of nature vs. nurture?) suggest greatly more reach than anything Wolfe has tried before.
(Excerpt) Read more at timesdispatch.com ...
Could NOT make it through A Man in Full.
Scared to tackle this one.
Loved "A Man in Full."
Liked "I am Charlotte Simmons."
I'm re-reading it. John Derbyshire over on National Review has some interesting thoughts on Wolfe's "conscious, thrown rock" metaphor and interest in neuroscience.
Throughout the book he repeats the title, suggesting that Charlotte believes she's something special, like the world is a play and she's the star, know what I mean? When maybe life really is all just sound and fury. Check your faith at the door.
Good book. I finished it over a month ago and I am still mulling it over. I will have my daughters read it when they turn 17, before they are unleashed into the cultural cess pool of our college campuses.
Unfortunately, 18th century Venice shares some characteristics with our own "post-modern" society. Wolfe in "I am Charlotte Simmons" shows himself to be something of a latter-day Robert Browning, except in prose.
I loved Bonfire and Man in Full; as a college prof, I really liked Charlotte because it gave me new insight into my students and my teenager. I have recommended it to all my colleagues.
It's worth the read!
Well I'd hate to burst your bubble but when your daughters are 17, you aren't going to "have my daughters" read anything they don't want to read. And they will read any damn thing they want (and probably read "Charlotte Simmons" when they were 14 anyhow).
BTW, although I don't know why this popped into my head, I think I may be the only guy who liked Herman Wouk's "Marjorie Morningstar."
I have actually visited Galuppi's grave.