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I am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe
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I am Charlotte Simmons (2004)

by Tom Wolfe

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3,170661,769 (3.43)61
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Showing 1-5 of 59 (next | show all)
eh... it was so long, i got to the point where i had to finish... ( )
  lloyd1175 | Mar 22, 2014 |
I've given up an hour and twenty two minutes into this audiobook. After an amusing initial episode following the thoughts of a college kid who is evidently destined to become the modern Sherman McCoy/master of the universe, it's been nothing but unbearable adolescent whining, self-pity, and angst from the title character. I can't possibly spend another 29 hours on this audiobook. Just, no. ( )
  PortM | Nov 30, 2013 |
I had the book sitting in my towering TBR pile for years, picked it up several times before, and never made it past the first 50 or so pages. I have unfair expectations for Tom Wolfe; I assumed that as with all of his other books "Charlotte" would suck me inside the author's head the moment I started reading. It did not. I finally decided it was time to donate the book or read the darn thing through, and so I soldiered on. Turned out, this is as engrossing a read as Wolfe's other books after the first 100 pages. So...only 3 stars? Well, yes. At the end of the day I was surprised at how little Wolfe understood the people he wrote about or the world they live in. Worse, there was not a single vaguely appealing charcter to be found. The best that could be said about any is that they were, at times, pathetic. Satire doesn't work without a single relatable character, and as reportage or editorial this simply fails.

I was scanning reviews on another site, and one of the positive reviews started with "you have to love Charlotte." Perhaps that is true, but I can't imagine anyone loving Charlotte in the least. She is an insufferable utterly humorless prig, who clearly believes understanding anything about popular culture is beneath her notice and that made her destruction satisfying. Given the general availability of things like television and the internet in the time covered here (even in the South Mr. Wolfe!) she would need to make a choice to be so utterly naive upon her arrival at college. And even assuming she was raised Amish or in some sort of anti-technology cult (which does not appear to be the case) she should have been able to catch up a bit when she reached civilization. Yet she has no interest in learning or adapting, simply in judging (herself and others) and wondering why everyone else is so awful. When lonliness or awkwardness finally knocks at her door rather than learning (her intellect is purported to be exceptional, and all things can be learned) she chooses magical thinking and abdandonment of self over simple observation and thoughtful modification. In our protaganist I wanted to find Alice, or Gulliver, or Hank Morgan. What I got was an sour combination of Cotton Mather, Gladys Kravitz and Fanny Price. She is not believable, she is not likable, she is not relatable. I suspect she is Tom Wolfe -- I hope not, but if so count him on my list of people with whom I never want to hang out.

Things don't really improve when one moves on from looking at just Charlotte. I am not of the generation portrayed here. I received my undergradute degree in 1984 and completed my graduate work in 1989 so it has been over 20 years since I lived on campus. The endless drinking, the random sex, the confusion between sophistication and ennui, the anti-intellectual zeitgest -- that is EXACTLY what college was like in 1980. Actually, forget 1980 -- it could be 1960. This is like "Animal House," with Doug Niedermeyer in drag front and center. Actually, make that 1950 since I imagine these charcters would work as a prequel to the wonderful "Bonfire of the Vanities". ("Kindling the Bonfire: The College Years!") Maybe I am lowbrow, but I'll take Blutarsky over Niedermeyer any day. Both are going to hell, but only one is making the trip fun. If Mr. Wolfe was interested in focusing a lens on the millenial generation, he needed some much fresher research and keener observations.

I don't really know how to wrap this up: I enjoyed reading the book, perhaps in part because I found so much of it objectionable, and in part because dude knows his prose. As social commentary, or allegory though, it failed spectacularly ( )
  Narshkite | Nov 20, 2013 |
Signed First Edition ( )
  DrMcDougall | Jul 25, 2013 |
Interesting book to listen to in the car... ( )
  pam.enser | Apr 1, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 59 (next | show all)
A failure it is: bloated, schematic, heavy-handed, and, it must be said, boring; impotent in its attempts to suggest a lived reality... and, oddest of all, flaccid as social satire.
 
It would be logical to speculate on the psychological connections between the refined 73-year-old author of this strikingly out-of-touch bildungsroman (college kids get drunk! They hook up!) and a bright, well-read, exceedingly pretty, and preposterously dainty fictional lass who is regularly shocked by every cussword she hears uttered by the more affluent boors who share the groves of academe with her.
 
At fictional Dupont University, every guy wants to be thought a "player" (or, as Wolfe spells it, "playa"), and nearly all the undergraduate women hope to be no better than sluts. Behind those ivied walls, our daughters gladly squirm out of their low-cut jeans to rut with shameless abandon, while our sons treat their one-night stands as conquests and whores.
 
Charlotte came to Dupont not for sex but to learn. Like Harvard, Dupontis harder to get into than to stay at, but Charlotte has trouble with her grades. Her shame over sex gets in the way of the exercise of her mind. Somehow the two must be brought into harmony in what Mr. Wolfe calls her soul. She takes courses, however, in biology and neuroscience in which the professor speaks only of "the soul," in dismissive quotation marks. Perhapsthis is why our universities and our society are unable to identifymanliness or see how women and men relate to it. Manliness is a form ofunreason that science tries to explain away, and it takes a novelist to seethe reason in the unreason of manliness.
 
The problem isn't really the inclusion of so many cliché characters; sadly, there are plenty of real students who fall into these categories. What's galling about this novel is its persistent lack of nuance, its reduction of the whole spectrum of people on a college campus to these garish primary colors.
 

» Add other authors (11 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Wolfe, Tomprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Jukarainen, ErkkiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Every time the men's-room door opened, the amped-up-onslaught of Swarm, the band banging out the concert in the theater overhead, came crashing in, ricocheting off all the mirrors and ceramic surfaces until it seemed twice as loud. (Prologue)
Alleghany County is perched so high up in the hills of western North Carolina that golfers intrepid enough to go up there to play golf call it mountain golf.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0312424442, Paperback)

Amazon.com Exclusive Content


Product Description: Dupont University--the Olympian halls of learning housing the cream of America's youth, the roseate Gothic spires and manicured lawns suffused with tradition... Or so it appears to beautiful, brilliant Charlotte Simmons, a sheltered freshman from North Carolina. But Charlotte soon learns, to her mounting dismay, that for the uppercrust coeds of Dupont, sex, Cool, and kegs trump academic achievement every time.

As Charlotte encounters Dupont's privileged elite--her roommate, Beverly, a Groton-educated Brahmin in lusty pursuit of lacrosse players; Jojo Johanssen, the only white starting player on Dupont's godlike basketball team, whose position is threatened by a hotshot black freshman from the projects; the Young Turk of Saint Ray fraternity, Hoyt Thorpe, whose heady sense of entitlement and social domination is clinched by his accidental brawl with a bodyguard for the governor of California; and Adam Geller, one of the Millennial Mutants who run the university's "independent" newspaper and who consider themselves the last bastion of intellectual endeavor on the sex-crazed, jock-obsessed campus--she gains a new, revelatory sense of her own power, that of her difference and of her very innocence, but little does she realize that she will act as a catalyst in all of their lives. With his signature eye for detail, Tom Wolfe draws on extensive observation of campuses across the country to immortalize college life in the '00s. I Am Charlotte Simmons is the much-anticipated triumph of America's master chronicler.

Tom Wolfe Talks About I Am Charlotte Simmons
In I Am Charlotte Simmons, Tom Wolfe masterfully chronicles college sports, fraternities, keggers, coeds, and sex--all through the eyes of the titular Simmons, a bright and beautiful freshman at the fictional Dupont University. Listen to an Amazon.com exclusive audio clip of Wolfe talking about his new novel.

Listen to Tom Wolfe Talk About I Am Charlotte Simmons



Tom Wolfe Timeline

1931: Thomas Kennerly Wolfe, Jr. born in Richmond, VA, on March 2. Wolfe later attends Washington and Lee University (BA, English, 1951), and Yale University (Ph.D., American Studies, 1957).

1956: Wolfe begins working as a reporter in Springfield, MA, Washington, D.C., then finally New York City, writing feature articles for major newspapers, as well as New York and Esquire magazines. Not satisfied with the conventions of newspaper reporting at the time, Wolfe experiments with using the techniques of fiction writing in his news articles. Wolfe's newspaper career spans a decade.

1963: After being sent by Esquire to research a story about the custom car world in Southern California, Wolfe returns to New York with ideas, but no article. Upon telling his editor he cannot write it, the editor suggests he send his notes and someone else will. Wolfe stays up all night, types 49 pages, and turns it in the next morning. Later that day, the editor calls to tell Wolfe they are cutting the salutation off the top of the memorandum, printing the rest as-is. Thus, New Journalism was arguably born, whereby writing and storytelling techniques previously utilized only in fiction were radically applied to nonfiction. Straight reporting pieces now were free to include: the author's perceptions and experience, shifting perspectives, the use of jargon and slang, the reconstruction of events and conversations.

1965: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux publish Wolfe's first collection of nonfiction stories displaying his newfound reporting techniques: The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby. The book cements Wolfe's place as a prominent stylist of the New Journalism movement.

1968: The Pump House Gang and The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (No. 91 on National Review's 100 Best Nonfiction Books of the Twentieth Century) publish on the same day, and together provide an up-close portrait and exploration of the hippie culture of the 1960s (by following the novelist Ken Kesey and his entourage of LSD enthusiasts), and the cultural change occurring at a seminal point in U.S. social history.

1970: Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers is published. This collection underscores racial divide in America, including an am using story about the socialites of New York City seeking out black liberation groups as guests, focusing on the conductor Leonard Bernstein's party with the Black Panthers in attendance at his Park Avenue duplex. (No. 35 on National Review's 100 Best Nonfiction Books of the Twentieth Century .)

1976: Wolfe labels the 1970s "The Me Decade" in his collection of essays, Mauve Gloves & Madmen, Clutter & Vine. Wolfe illustrates the bookthroughout.

1979: The Right Stuff is published. Depicting the status, structure, exploits, and ethics of daredevil pilots at the forefront of rocket and aircraft technology, as well as the beginnings of the space program and the pioneering NASA astronauts who were the first Americans to land on the moon, the book receives the National Book Award in 1980. An Academy Award-winning film is made from the book in 1983.

1987: With publication of his first novel, The Bonfire of the Vanities--serialized in Rolling Stone magazine--Wolfe pens one of the bestselling and definitive novels of the 1980s, continuing his social criticism and ability to capture the lives and preoccupations of Americans, one generation at a time. Wolfe receives a record $5 million for movie rights to the novel and, despite the success of the book, the film fails at the box office.

1998: A Man in Full, Wolfe's second novel, is published to mixed criticism, yet garners favor as a 1998 National Book Award Finalist. Here, Wolfe aims his sights on the Atlanta, GA, elite, trophy wives, and real estate developers, continuing to comment on racial issues and the chasm in socioeconomic status in America.

2000: Hooking Up, a collection of essays, reviews, profiles, and the novella, Ambush at Fort Bragg, is published.

2004: On November 9, Wolfe's third novel, I Am Charlotte Simmons, set at the fictional Dupont University, is published.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:24:17 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

At Dupont University, an innocent college freshman named Charlotte Simmons learns that her intellect alone will not help her survive.

» see all 4 descriptions

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