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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.ca exclusive audio clip of Wolfe talking about his new novel.
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 amusing 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 book throughout.
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.
2004: On November 9, Wolfe's third novel, I Am Charlotte Simmons, set at the fictional Dupont University, is published. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Maybe it was just me, but I didn't particularly like this book. I didn't read too far into the book before I gave up, so maybe it gets better as you go along. Read morePublished 18 months ago by Weezie From Dartmouth
I had heard such good things about this book and was anxious to read it. In fact, the first part of the book was actually very interesting and I could see tremendous... Read morePublished 23 months ago by Deb
Why do Americans have to go through this horrible class distinction? I loved the book, well-written, exciting, satirical etc. Read morePublished on Sept. 30 2012 by julov
I have never found a book so excruciating to finish, nor loathed a character so much as Charlotte Simmons. Read morePublished on Jan. 3 2009 by Emily M.
My reasons for not enjoying this book:
(1) It was about 500 pages too long. Wolfe writes way too much unnecessary detail into his scenes. Read more
Like many other big books I've taken on lately (JONATHAN STRANGE and the every-popular BARK OF THE DOGWOOD), this one was not only well thought out, but has brilliant... Read morePublished on Aug. 11 2005 by Zock Beresford
This book is very well written. The characters depicted and the nature of the setting succinctly captures college campus life where there is sex, rivalries, friendship, peer... Read morePublished on May 26 2005 by Sancho Mahle
I can't help but like this book. "I am Charlotte Simmons" has the lost angry adolescent thing going for it (ala "Catcher in the Rye") but it is more than that. Read morePublished on May 9 2005 by Derek Leonardi