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The Wrong Stuff

Christopher Hitchens

1 April 1983
The Purple Decades 
by Tom Wolfe.
Cape, 396 pp., £8.95, March 1983, 0 224 02944 4
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... In the margin of the second: no it isn’t. After the third: no it wasn’t. But that would be much too literal. What those three paragraphs have in common are the three things that go to make up the TomWolfe effect. One, a glibness that is designed for speed-reading. Two, a facility with rapidly cross-cut images and references: a show of learning. Three, a strongly marked conservatism. It is the ...

Rutrutrutrutrutrutrutrut

Theo Tait: Tom Wolfe’s Bloody Awful Novel

6 January 2005
I am Charlotte Simmons 
by Tom Wolfe.
Cape, 676 pp., £20, November 2004, 0 224 07486 5
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... TomWolfe 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 ...

Venus de Silo by

Dan Jacobson

7 February 1980
The Right Stuff 
by Tom Wolfe.
Cape, 436 pp., £6.95, November 1980, 0 224 01443 9
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... There are several reasons why it is possible, or perhaps even desirable, to disapprove of TomWolfe’s writing. It is sometimes verbose; occasionally it is too pleased with its own effects; it is bespattered with arch capital letters and exclamation-marks, in a manner that reminds one of Winnie ...
11 January 1990
Missing Beauty: A True Story of Murder and Obsession 
by Teresa Carpenter.
Hamish Hamilton, 478 pp., £15.95, October 1989, 0 241 12775 0
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Wasted: The Preppie Murder 
by Linda Wolfe.
Simon and Schuster, 303 pp., $19.95, September 1989, 0 671 64184 0
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... fall flat. One tires of hearing about cities and places as they ‘were’ five or six years ago; in the main, most of them remain unchanged. This is a fault more of the form than the author. Since TomWolfe made his call for the non-fiction novel in the late Sixties, journalists have from time to time adapted the novel’s form to the telling of a true story. Unfortunately, it rarely works. No ...

The First Person, Steroid-Enhanced

Hari Kunzru: Hunter S. Thompson

15 October 1998
The Rum Diary 
by Hunter S. Thompson.
Bloomsbury, 204 pp., £16.99, October 1998, 9780747541684
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The Proud Highway: The Fear and Loathing Letters. Vol. I 
by Hunter S. Thompson, edited by Douglas Brinkley.
Bloomsbury, 720 pp., £9.99, July 1998, 0 7475 3619 8
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... For TomWolfe, the New Journalism was defined by the appearance of all kinds of literary devices in non-fiction writing, but chiefly by an unwillingness to adopt the traditional journalistic tone of polite ...
15 April 1982
From Bauhaus to Our House 
by Tom Wolfe.
Cape, 143 pp., £6.95, March 1982, 0 224 02030 7
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... TomWolfe’s earlier squib against Modernism, The Painted Word, was a reasonable succès de scandale among those with enough interest in the New York School of painting to want to defend it, but went little ...

Running on Empty

Christopher Hitchens: The Wrong Stuff

7 January 1999
A Man in Full 
by Tom Wolfe.
Cape, 742 pp., £20, November 1998, 0 224 03036 1
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... as the index of national well-being. The ethnic spoils system, meanwhile, is manipulated by the same class as ever. If either of these elements ever undergoes a dramatic metamorphosis, it won’t be TomWolfe who sounds the alarm. Yet, even as he tries to move to another city, and to make the leap from former journalist to actual novelist, Wolfe keeps The Bonfire of the Vanities constantly at hand ...
28 May 1992
Outerbridge Reach 
by Robert Stone.
Deutsch, 409 pp., £14.99, May 1992, 0 223 98774 3
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... When Robert Stone’s best-known novel, Dog Soldiers, was published in 1974, there was a small but significant overlap of material with The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, TomWolfe’s souped-up, superheated journalistic account of the beginnings of the counterculture, published six years earlier. The coincidence of material was in many ways inevitable. Stone had been part of ...

Big Bad Wolfe

John Sutherland

18 February 1988
The Bonfire of the Vanities 
by Tom Wolfe.
Cape, 659 pp., £11.95, February 1988, 0 224 02439 6
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... TomWolfe’s The Bonfire of the Vanities is his 11th book but his first novel. Happily for him, it looks like being that publisher’s dream, a runaway best-seller which is also critically acclaimed. But I ...

Short Cuts

Andrew O’Hagan: Jeffrey Epstein’s Little Black Book

15 August 2019
... TomWolfe​ lived round the corner from the Metropolitan Museum, at 21 East 79th Street, between Fifth and Madison. A mahogany elevator went to the sitting room of his 14th-floor apartment, much as it does to ...

Everybody knows

Christina Gombar: Kate Jennings

22 August 2002
Moral Hazard 
by Kate Jennings.
Fourth Estate, 180 pp., £10, April 2002, 1 84115 737 6
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... challenges, especially when the business is central to the theme. Most people are afraid of numbers, while those who aren’t – those who work with them – may be just plain sick of them. TomWolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities and Michael Lewis’s bond-trading memoir, Liar’s Poker, in common with the many chronicles that imitated them, keep their focus tightly trained on the upper echelons ...

Diary

Karl Miller: Ten Years of the LRB

26 October 1989
... run-up to the Booker Prize award, he asks: ‘Where, in any international literary framework, is the British writer who matters?’ Not one, he suggests, can stand comparison with Marquez, Kundera, TomWolfe. What can the editor of the Independent have made of the claim that the writers praised and published in his pages do not matter? Perhaps he felt that it did not matter that D.J. Taylor felt ...

Money Talk

Victor Mallet

21 December 1989
Liar’s Poker: Two Cities, True Greed 
by Michael Lewis.
Hodder, 224 pp., £12.95, November 1989, 0 340 49602 9
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Lords of Poverty: The Free-Wheeling Lifestyles, Power, Prestige and Corruption of the Multi-Billion Dollar Aid Business 
by Graham Hancock.
Macmillan, 234 pp., £14.95, October 1989, 0 333 43962 7
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High Life 
by Taki.
Viking, 198 pp., £11.95, October 1989, 0 670 82956 0
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The Midas Touch: Money, People and Power from West to East 
by Anthony Sampson.
BBC/Hodder, 212 pp., £15, October 1989, 0 340 48793 3
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... employee of his age at Salomon, but preserved a measure of detachment – and amazement – about what was going on around him. This is the real-life version of the investment banking background to TomWolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities, and the characters are just as interesting. Lewis has a gift for the rapid portrait. Unless you find his flippant one-liners irritating, it is a pleasure to be ...

Big Daddy

Linda Nochlin

30 October 1997
American Visions: The Epic History of Art in America 
by Robert Hughes.
Harvill, 635 pp., £35, October 1997, 9781860463723
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... know-nothing Congressional committees are concerned or censorship is an issue, and he is quick to demolish the critique of Modernist American architecture concocted by a chauvinist die-hard like TomWolfe, his liberalism has its limits. Identity politics plays no role in his understanding of contemporary representation. While he is all for the rights of blacks and gays to free artistic expression he ...
20 August 1981
Working with Structuralism 
by David Lodge.
Routledge, 207 pp., £10.95, June 1981, 0 7100 0658 6
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... distinction (one of the least disputable of formalist conceptual advances). He is as lucid when trying something new as he is when performing more conventionally on Hardy, Waugh, Ted Hughes and TomWolfe. It’s to be hoped, then, that readers won’t be put off this civil and modestly adventurous book by the jokes and sneers of the smart, dismissive reviewers into whose hands anything of this kind ...

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