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I Am Charlotte Simmons (2004)

by Tom Wolfe

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3,640762,597 (3.41)68
As Charlotte encounters the paragons of Dupont University's privileged elite, she is seduced by the heady glamour of acceptance, betraying her values and upbringing before she grasps the power of being different and the exotic allure of her innocence.

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Showing 1-5 of 68 (next | show all)
It has been 30 years since I started college, and in those years, nothing has fundamentally changed. The clothes, music, language and technology is all different, yes, but the fundamentals remain the same.

Freshmen struggle with the transition from high school and home to college courses and dorm life. Good students find themselves being challenged by their class assignments. Smart girls do stupid things and bitchy girls do bitchy things.

Absolutely nothing shocking here; just young people being young people.

Charlotte Simmons herself is a bit of a cipher, maybe. I don't understand why she became such a conformist in college; she really should have been past the conformity-prone years by that time. Her self-consciousness was really painful. Her need to compete with the other girls was startling, and her total lack of any female bonding represented a serious developmental flaw in her character.

The storyline of JoJo Johanssen was one of the more interesting ones; I did cheer him on.

The only mystery in this novel was finding out who the "source inside the St Ray house" was. Of course, I. P. was the obvious choice, but I thought it was possible that someone else might have sold out Hoyt Thorp. It is intriguing to think about what happened to Hoyt after the events in this novel.....I guess I can sincerely say that I sort of hope things sucked for him.

The single most annoying incident in the book was Adam's meeting with Professor Quat. How Adam could have trusted him with the truth is beyond me. Wolfe's description of Quat's office decor made me groan and his whole diatribe on the '60's was thankfully short: the obnoxious, insidious, era-ist propaganda issuing forth from Quat made me wish that Adam would punch him in the face. I don't want to hear that shit about the sixties, man, so shut the hell up about it, already!

The ending was....baffling in regards to Charlotte herself. It seems to me like she just gave up on herself and decided to live in the reflected glory of her man. Sad. ( )
  Equestrienne | Jan 5, 2021 |
This held so much promise. I love novels set around college campuses and the character of Charlotte is endearing...at first. Less than halfway through the book I think Wolfe went a little nuts in trying to make the novel as college as possible. It was like every trope and stereotype you might associate with college in one book, and it wasn't particularly successful. The ending was unsatisfying and I grew to dislike every single character. Overall, a very disappointing read. ( )
  bookishtexpat | May 21, 2020 |
I bought this novel because I have heard of the author and have always wanted to read one of his books. I wasn't disappointed, for the most part. The main character, Charlotte Simmons, is a bright young girl who wants to live "the life of the mind" when she starts her freshman year at Dupont University. She has lived a sheltered life, so focused on leaving the small town of Sparta, North Carolina, that she hasn't had the typical teenage life. Things change and she meets three young man who will have an impact on her, in various ways.
I won't say anymore, not wanting the spoil the many surprises and twists that await. The only reason why I didn't give it five stars is because, even though is nearly seven hundred pages, I felt the ending was rushed. ( )
  ZelmerWilson | Oct 31, 2019 |
Tom Wolfe rides again! The author never fails to get my attention, but he doesn't always succeed in keeping it. "Bonfire of the Vanities" for one, I felt, was awful. So If I like "Charlotte Simmons," I'll finish the book. If I don't, I'll drop it in the donation box at one of the local libraries. My personal jury remains cloistered for now.
  NathanielPoe | Apr 12, 2019 |
there were parts of this that i enjoyed and that went relatively quickly, but overall it was pretty slow reading and not all that engaging. sometimes it read accurately, and sometimes it read like an old guy estimating the college experience in an era that he didn't understand. charlotte often behaved inexplicably, or at least i didn't believe the motivation he gave her character, after setting her up the way he did early on. but sometimes he'd get something that seemed so familiar to my experience or reminded me of my time in college (about 10 years before he was writing this), and it would seem so authentic.

it took too long to read (was probably overlong by at least a few hundred pages) and didn't always hit the mark, but sometimes did. mixed feelings about this one. ( )
1 vote overlycriticalelisa | May 27, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 68 (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 (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Wolfe, Tomprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Baker, DylanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jukarainen, ErkkiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To my two collegians
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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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As Charlotte encounters the paragons of Dupont University's privileged elite, she is seduced by the heady glamour of acceptance, betraying her values and upbringing before she grasps the power of being different and the exotic allure of her innocence.

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