I Am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe
In his long career, Tom Wolfe has written more pages in order to épater les bien-pensants than any writer now alive. He must be surprised, then, that his latest novel-of-the-decade, I Am Charlotte Simmons—genial, trustful, sympathetic—has already created as much ill will as his earlier waspish commentaries on fashionable politics, art, and social pretension. But so it has. Though I Am Charlotte Simmons is not without its defenders, its detractors have been numerous and petulant.
More than any writer of our time, Wolfe has also created the taste by which he is to be enjoyed, for which he is again being punished. Thus, the chief gripe of those who dislike I Am Charlotte Simmons is that it is not sufficiently “Wolfean.” Michiko Kakutani’s reaction in the New York Times was typical. She had expected, she wrote, a grand Tom Wolfe panorama of “big-city racial politics, big-business financial shenanigans, or big-time criminal justice.” Instead, she continued in high sarcasm, Wolfe has taken on “the momentous subject of college life (college life? Yes, college life!), and . . . serves up the revelation—yikes!—that students crave sex and beer, love to party, wear casual clothes, and use four-letter words.”
About the Author
Sam Schulman reviewed God Is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens in our June issue. He is the publishing director of The American.