Venus de Silo by

Dan Jacobson

  • The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe
    Cape, 436 pp, £6.95, November 1980, ISBN 0 224 01443 9

There are several reasons why it is possible, or perhaps even desirable, to disapprove of Tom Wolfe’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 the Pooh; despite the last comparison, its cadences and vocabulary are deplorably un-English. However, there are also many reasons (of a far more compelling kind, in my view) why it is possible greatly to admire his writing. It can be quick, vivid, high-spirited, resourceful, full of surprise, extremely funny; because the author delights so much in what he detests, and because he has such an uncontrollably mischievous impulse to debunk what he most esteems, every sharply observed detail is carried on an exhilarating surge and backwash of feeling. Furthermore, his prose style is capable of building up to certain big moments, and then sustaining them eloquently over many pages.

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[*] The New Journalism edited by Tom Wolfe and E.W. Johnson, Picador (1975).