5.0 out of 5 stars I can't help it, I just love him
I found it hard to follow his line of reasoning at times. He seems to be against a lot of things, and be the only man who really knows what everything is about. I usually find that a difficult attitude to cope with. And after the introduction, I almost put the book away. Very cliche, everything-used-to-be-better-in-the-good-old-days material. But Wolfe grabbed my...
Published on April 22 2002 by zeldesse
3.0 out of 5 stars Mixed Bag
This reviewer has read much of Wolfe's work beginning with Kandy Kolored and continuing to the present volume. He has frequently been awed and highly entertained with much of TW's output. The book under discussion, however,is not one of his better efforts.
Maybe things started to go wrong with the physical appearance of the book. The cover is OK but the nearly...
Published on Nov. 11 2001
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4.0 out of 5 stars Deliciously witty but insightful,
Like David Remnick, Tom Wolfe's background was journalism before he ventured into the novel territory. I heard so much about Tom Wolfe and the hooha that he generated (even featured in the Times magazine) when his much awaited novel (which took one decade to write) was released into the market few yrs back. Thru blind faith, I sourced this book & read it, hoping that his work did live up to his name. "Hooking Up" is a book with a mixed element comprises of social commentaries and a novella. Some of them highly interesting, some of them I just couldn't bother with but they all revealed America from the inside out, just as Tom Wolfe did for "Bonfire of the Vanities" by showing to us the rot within the American society. Highlights in this book, for me anyway, would be the changes of American society towards the sex issue, when sex is sex, the comparison of phases of intimacy between now & 30 yrs ago; the transformation of Santa Clara Valley into what's better known as Silicon Valley nowadays, the description of two men (Noyce in particular) who brought with them a new corporate culture, invention over brawn which projected America to be the ultimate self-made billionaires' haven; intriguing insight into the research which allows human being to see what the others are thinking and what their minds are functioning to, and questioning the validity of human's soul, whether it's the rite thing to be playing God; the novella about homophobia in the army; lastly, the parodying of The New Yorker being a living dinasour. The whole book is compelling to read, and for Americans that are within their own shorelines, perhaps, what's written here they could live without as they have already known the facts but for us out there who are clamouring to understand the American society better, this book is a revelation. Highly recommended.
5.0 out of 5 stars Defeating The Slave-Hunting Brotherhoods,
With his customary brilliance and brio Wolfe sums up why none of the fashionable people are celebrating the dawn of the "second American Century." He says Nietzsche was right in predicting the exhaustion of 19th century moral capital in the 20th. Brotherhoods of slave-hunting barbarians would rise up to take advantage of the moral vacuum, and their wars would make all previous wars seem to be like Sunday-school picnics (these brotherhoods turned out to be of course the Communists and the National Socialists, irritatingly and misleadingly nicknamed "Nazis".) The slave-hunting brotherhoods were, at enormous cost, eventually defeated, but the moral vacuum remains (if anything it's gotten worse.) Too many on the left failed to properly understand what was at stake (see "In the Land of the Rococco Marxists") and are now embarassed by the collapse of socialism. It remains to the common, bourgeois middle class to take their prosperity and celebrate the freedom America has provided. Wolfe speculates on what will fill the continuing vacuum. In the witty essay "Sorry, But Your Soul Just Died" he considers the new orthodoxy of neo-Darwinsim and sociobiology and speculates that God can't be abolished, after all. In "The Invisible Artist" and "The Great Relearning" he specualtes on the possibility of a new, more objective art to replace the worn-out modernism of the last century. The Wolfe many of us love is the relentless, unawswerable satirist, and that side shows up in "My Three Stooges" (where he demolishes Updike, Mailer, and John Irving). The book concludes with his now-legendary lampoons of "The New Yorker" and a new recounting of the extremes to which it drove his targets (the reaction reached all the way to LBJ's White House.) A highly satisfying read from a national treasure.
3.0 out of 5 stars Not dead yet: a satirist outlasts just about all his targets,
After twenty years, Tom Wolfe is back with another collection of essays of social criticism. Throughout much of the Eighties and Nineties, it seemed that he had been overtaken by the changing times, as every satirist eventually must be. The sprayer of irony one day finds himself drowing in it. His two smash novels pointed to new directions for him.
But here is this grab bag of old and new material, picking right up where his last such, 1980's _In Our Time_, left off. He didn't include any of his very witty caricatures here, though-too bad. One of the essays, "My Three Stooges", a barrel-roll around his literary competition, would have been a good forum for them.
That piece, "My Three Stooges" is a terrific rejoinder to his critics in thenortheasternliberalliteraryestablishment. The writers who inhabit the Long Island-Martha's Vinyard-rural New England triangle have been so increasingly irrelevant to the rest of American life that it's all the New York literary taste-makers can do to keep them afloat. This may be the knock-out blow for them, as Wolfe touts the vital but neglected role of reportage in bringing the parade of American life successfully to print.
Wolfe's style has remained rather static over the years. He still uses his familiar panoply of ellipses, italics, and repetition, though the pages are not as annoyingly snowy with them as in his earlier days. Mysteriously, he recycled a _lot_ of snappy turns of phrase from earlier books. I mean, verbatim passages of description, "gold chains twinkling in his chest hairs," "hung their hides over the edge," "Please God, don't let me look old," to list a very few, all made memorable appearances in his work decades ago. Plus, the use of tell-tale brand names as punchlines makes some older essays sound stale, as those brands have lost their cachet or stigma over the years.
The collection has its strengths and weaknesses, of course, like all collections of anything do. _The Right Stuff_ notwithstanding, Wolfe is not a science writer, and his two essays on sociobiology here feel like oversimplifications. There's surely room for satire in that field, but this doesn't feel like his best work. The horselaugh at _The New Yorker_'s expense is a cute souvenir of Sixties New York, but no more than that. And "Ambush at Fort Bragg" confused a lot of people, perhaps because the story didn't tell them what to think about the events. Just enjoy the characterizations, then. A more detailed acknowledgements section would be useful, showing when and where these pieces are from.
But "Two Men Who Went West" is a very interesting tale about the birth of Silicon Valley and its unique corporate culture. "In the Land of the Rococo Marxists" is a richly deserved, exquisitely drawn out sneer at pampered academic radicals, and how they have coped with their side losing the Cold War. "The Invisible Artist" is a surprisingly affectionate account of the career of Frederick Hart. And the introduction to the book, "Hooking Up" is vintage Wolfe, modern mores seen through the uncomprehending eyes of a deftly-detailed ordinary joe.
So everything old is new again! The reporter-satirist-novelist-reporter still has a sharp eye for the current scene, even if his style is flash-frozen in time. A must for Wolfe fans.
5.0 out of 5 stars Soundly Intelligent, Great Sense of Humor,
I came to "Hooking Up" after having finished Paul Johnson's "Intellectuals," another great study of thought and its effect in our society. I've actually met Tom Wolfe at Duke Univ., and was struck by how open and sensible he was. This collection of essays is more than a humorous and hip read: it's responsible. The research and journalism are sound; the depth of humanity displayed in the exposition of it is touching. The defense of Naturalism in "My Three Stooges" is something that one would have thought went without saying, but for the past four decades, hasn't. It is so good to see the inward-looking, self-absorbed writers like Updike falling at last by the wayside. Updike's problem is that he never went out into the crazy carnival of American life and lived, took chances, felt emotion in extremis, or at least spent time with people who live in these states. With Updike and Irving (Norman Mailer was always more of a self-promotion specialist than a good writer), writing is an intellectual parlor game: good for themselves, but not so exciting for the rest of us. It's nice to see Wolfe having the final word here. He's a breath of fresh air. His writing, like his lifetime pursuits, are concerned with us, all of us. He is truly the closest we've had in two generations to a writer who can at least claim pretentions of carrying the mantel of Dickens.
5.0 out of 5 stars another great read,
Although not every essay will be appreciated equally by all readers, the overall quality of Wolfe's writing is superb, and this book is a great read. One of the most important essays he has ever written is here, "In the Land of the Rococo Marxist...", wherein he raises a vital question we should all be asking: What did we hear from all the Marxists, pro-Communists, and leftist liberals when Communist died, and all its flaws were revealed forever? Why didn't any of the blind, ignorant people who supported these empty excuses for "civilization", and who repeatedly excused those "evil empires" (i.e., the Soviet Union and Communist China), have any excuse or apology for the rest of us? Many supposedly-educated people supported those political states for years, ignoring all evidence of their evil and repressive nature, and now that they have been absolutely proven wrong, Wolfe wonders where they are now. He is asking why they have no comment, no excuse, no explanation, and the reader, after reading Wolfe here, wonders also. The author does a fabulous job reviewing some of their now-dead views and leveling proper criticism. His essay on this topic is extremely interesting and relevant. His pieces on the history of Silicon Valley (Noyce), "Two Young Men Who Went West.", and on "Hooking Up" are both quite good, although for different reasons. "Two Young Men..." gives such a detailed history of the cultural and historical background of the Silicon Valley developments, it is a "must read" for all who are affected by digital technology--which is to say, nearly everyone. "Hooking Up" is an eye-opener for most readers over the age of 25 or 30. I've heard people I work with use that phrase many times, and I thought I knew what they meant; now that I've read Wolfe's piece, I sure have to re-think some of those conversations. Read and learn. Some criticism that Wolfe's pieces in this work are of uneven quality seems unjustified when you consider the extreme high quality of the best and the fine quality of the rest. A very entertaining and informative book, and it is sure to be thought-provoking for most who pick it up.
5.0 out of 5 stars More of the right stuff,
Tom Wolfe writes about people who have The Right Stuff and people who have The Wrong Stuff. He's wickedly funny and accurate about people who have The Wrong Stuff and respectful but very interesting and observant about people who have The Right Stuff. This bewilders readers who cannot tell the difference between The Right Stuff and The Wrong Stuff. And it deeply offends those who have The Wrong Stuff.
Hooking Up has these essays about people with The Wrong Stuff: Hooking Up; In the Land of the Rococo Marxist; The Great Relearning; Ambush at Fort Bragg; My Three Stooges; Foreword: Murderous Gutter Journalism; Tiny Mummies! The True Story of the Ruler of 43rd Street's Land of the Walking Dead; Lost in The Wichy Thickets: The New Yorker and Afterword: High in the Saddle.
And it has these essays about people who have The Right Stuff: Two Men Who Went West; Digibabble, Fairy Dust, and the Human Anthill; Sorry, But Your Soul Just Died and The Invisible Artist.
Buy this book. This is your chance for an evening of belly laughs if you know the difference between The Right Stuff and The Wrong Stuff.
4.0 out of 5 stars 3.5 stars, rounded up,
This book feels haphazard, because nothing unifies the selections. There are essays on the founder of Intel and on the New Yorker (among other subjects) mixed in with a novella and diatribe on three prominent authors. One senses the publisher's desire to get something, ANYTHING, by Wolfe into print before Christmas.
The section of the book on the New Yorker is the most disappointing. The two pieces on the magazine are over thirty years old! The editor he mocks is long gone. Who cares anymore? This was disposable newspaper prose, not a work for the ages to be republished decades later.
The New Yorker section also illustrates how little Wolfe has grown in the intervening years. He keeps his choice of topics fresh, and he still has an acute eye for detail, but the writing style! All those exclamation marks! The old man in white still writes like the Young Turk he once was! Amazing! And that sneering prose! Still there! But shouldn't we expect some changes in his knockabout prose in the past decades? Furthermore, Wolfe is recycling ideas. In how many books has he compared the dress of doormen to 19th century Austrian colonels or Gilbert and Sullivan characters. It's funny the first couple of times but annoying afterwards. Even within this book he recycles many phrases, sometimes word-for-word. Is it deliberate or just sloppy editing?
The novella "Ambush at Fort Bragg" on its own would be three-stars. Mostly it seems to be an excuse for Wolfe to write some porno scenes and to make fun of the people behind TV newsmagazines. But it also illustrates the limitations of his fiction. Unlike Dickens, who also was a reporter turned novelist with a great sense of humor, Wolfe has no affection for his characters. They all are just absurd spectacles for the man in white to mock. Yes, his mockery is funny, but it can wear thin. Where is the compassionate understanding of people that belongs to the greatest novelists? (Of course, Dickens can be mawkishly sentimental -- a sin Wolfe never shares.) Wolfe's characters are too thin to populate great literature. They are all absurd affect and pretension, no heart.
Although Wolfe's attack upon Irving, Mailer, and Updike is in some respects petty, but it does allow him to make a case for his style of literature: engaged with its time and place.
The usual suspects come in for a bashing (Marxists, the PC crowd, intellectuals, modern artists, etc.). Many of these people deserve to be bashed, but Wolfe has done so long before this book. In short: more recycling.
For my money, the essays in the first section are the best. Wolfe shows his wonderful skills as an observer of the American scene. But he also displays his penchant for overstatement. For instance, to listen to Wolfe you'd think that American philosophy was a cesspool of deconstructionism. In fact, deconstructionism exists only at the fringes of philosophy in America. Most American philosophers come out of the tradition of Frege and Russell, not Heidegger and Derrida. Also, Wolfe oversimplifies the debate concerning sociobiology. Yes, many of E. O. Wilson's opponents have been uncivil and thuggish, but some have had legitimate concerns that his sociobiological program is an attempt to give social constructions the imprimatur of biological destiny. Wolfe gives Wilson's critics no credit at all. Wilson simply is portrayed as A Great Man having to do battle with the forces of ignorance and foolishness. My own opinion is that neither Wilson nor his opponents have proven their cases yet.
5.0 out of 5 stars Protestantism...more than a semi influence on US history.,
Wolfe's expose on Protestantism and its controling influence on the semi conductor industry in "Two Young Men Who Went West" is the tight, revealing, and fascinating prose that makes him a master of the printed word. Wolfe's observations appear tongue-in-cheek, but they reveal his deep respect for American culture and the Puritan work ethic--a thoughtful gift for those in the know.
It has always amazed this reviewer that most of America's best modern scientists seem evolutionary in their thinking--after pursuing careers in science where painstakingly close observation reveals absolute law every moment.
Wolfe has certainly turned a long-neglected stone. He's not the only recent author who has noticed this influence on western thought.
Simon Winchester in "The Professor and the Madman" notes that the Oxford English Dictionary, a work whose first draft took 75 years to complete and still a work in progress, was originally compiled to introduce the world to Christianity. Because the authors (many volunteers which include William Minor, the book's protagonist) attributed England's greatness to God's blessing on industry--the original purpose of all previous English dictionaries. The OED's set out to offer world a blueprint for Protestant culture by introducting the world to the English language. Central to Protestant thought is the cultural mandate: "Be fruitful, multiply, and replenish the earth." This is the basis of Puritan action and missionary work.
How can the modern scientist grope for answers in a world of chance? To whom does he attribute his discoveries?
Wolfe responds: "Fortuitous...[in italics] well! How Josiah Grinnell, up on the plains of Heaven, must have laughed over that!" (p 26)
Savor the line; enjoy the book.
4.0 out of 5 stars Wolfe on the rampage,
Wolfe's unique position as the resident elf of American letters has allowed him the licence to expose the mountains of hypocrisy and hype that form the fabric of our modern and now 'post modern' society, with out ever having had to reveal a point of view of his own. Most of his work is presented with a raconteur's relish. It moves just slightly outside and slightly behind the Next 'New' Thing, taking voyeuristic glee in adjudicating its pretensions and contradictions. The impression, though, is often that of a dilettante rather than a crusader, a writer with gifted perception but lacking a sense of mission. But in his older years he has come on a cause that he has approached with some passion. The state of the novel and his own contribution to it.
The centre piece in these essays is the one dealing with his 'Three Stooges', Norman Mailer, John Irving, John Updike. For this he has abandoned all of his trademark irony and journalistic distance. The scathing critiques by America's literary elders on his last novel. 'A Man in Full' has left him on full counter attack.. That is all the more magnetic because the claims on both sides are nothing less than the mantle of Dickens, Zola, Tolstoy, Twain and the future of the novel as realism or aestheticism-- Wolfe's resonant social, morally definitive panorama or aestheticism's metaphysics, ethereal 'exquisiteness' and subjective ethics. Of course this strain has its own illustrious champions, Melville, Henry James, Proust, Joyce. His case is interesting, but inconclusive, as to why these two forms can't coexist. He is clearly sensitive to all the barbs from the literary 'aristocracy' and his essays are personal and at times bitter. Still, the spectacle of these over bred egos taking on one another in the media spotlight must have been irresistible to Wolfe, even if he is one of the participants. Surely he must be able to see a little of his own antiheroes Sherman McCoy and Charlie Croker, though, in all their puffed up self righteousness, in his own indignity.
The wide ranging social essays and a novella are braced by his articulate, robust language. One is left with the suspicion, however, that his carefully chosen representations cover issues that are much more complex and nuanced than he gives credit. Anecdotes of such self contained sophistry as post structural literary criticism or 'socio-biology' are easy to lampoon, but a deeper look at the eschatology of middle American culture is never attempted. Wolfe inserts himself as a traditionalist, but in an intellect that is really much too sharp, flexible and transient to represent Middle America. The cast of characters would provide some colourful academic contrasts for any Park Avenue soiree, however. That is where Wolfe shines, as an intellectual vagabond, in an epoch that is providing no end of entertaining subject matter.
3.0 out of 5 stars An Uneven Collection,
By A Customer
OK, let me begin by saying that Tom Wolfe is one of my favorite authors. He does his homework, has an eye for detail and an exquisite (ooh...there's that word!) way of bending the English language to his purposes. So, I'm a fan.
However, I found "Hooking Up" to be less than I expected or hoped for. Other reviewers have commented on the dubious relevance of some of the essays, and I agree. The piece on the NY Times was well-written, as usual, but I just didn't care about the topic. It seemed to be a little too shrill, a little too self-serving...but in the end I just didn't care.
"Ambush At Fort Bragg" was deadly in its aim, but the sexual content bordered on pornographic (I say this even as I admit that it fit the context of the story) and, frankly, I'm just a tad weary of such things.
Mr. Wolfe is at his best when he takes aim at current social, philosophic and scientific issues, and dissects them, layer by layer, exposing the good with the bad. He does this in a number of essays in this collection, and that is the saving grace for this book. If you're a Tom Wolfe fan, by all means - buy the book. If you're not familiar with his work but want to be, there are better choices.
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Hooking Up by Tom Wolfe (Paperback - Oct. 12 2001)
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