Friday, January 07, 2005

Must. Resist. Urge.

All but one of the books I ordered arrived. My first impulse after petting them all is to put them on my bedside pile, but I have a resolution. So at the moment they are sitting on a corner of my desk until I decide what to do about them. Some of them will go downstairs into the library while others will find a home on "my" bookshelf where I keep books of literary essays. If you're trying to decide what to read next and have heard great things about Wolfe's I am Charlotte Simmons, you might want to think twice before spending your well earned cash. Check out Theo Tait's review at the LRB

Tom Wolfe is, in many ways, an outrageous figure – with his white suit and cane, his glib social analyses, and his delusions of grandeur. For three decades he has been saying that his minutely researched books herald ‘a revolution’ in literature, which is bound to ‘sweep the arts in America, making many prestigious artists . . . appear effete and irrelevant’. Over the years, a lot of these effete and irrelevant artists – John Updike, Norman Mailer, Jonathan Franzen – have launched tirades against him. The most concise comes from John Irving, commenting red-faced and furious on live TV: ‘Wolfe’s problem is, he can’t bleeping write! He’s not a writer! Just crack one of his bleeping books! Try reading one bleeping sentence! You’ll gag before you can finish it! He doesn’t even write literature – he writes . . . yak! He doesn’t write novels – he writes journalistic hyperbole!’ These comments, graciously reported by Wolfe himself, don’t seem entirely fair to me. They do, however, perfectly describe his bloody awful new novel I am Charlotte Simmons.
My Bookman is listening to the book unabridged in his car and told my yesterday that I shouldn't bother reading it. Perhaps you might want to consider reading Edith Wharton. House of Mirth is one of my favorites.