I Am Charlotte Simmons Hardcover – 2004
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Top Customer Reviews
I AM CHARLOTTE SIMMONS is not without its flaws, and some of them are fairly glaring. For one thing, Wolfe could easily have shed 150-200 pages off the total page count. Charlotte's ruminations as events progress start to repeat and repeat and repeat...we get it already, Tom! The girl wants to be "cool"!
Other reviewers have questioned Wolfe's vernacular, which I think is missing the point in a social satire. Kids (and these are very much kids) may not say these exact phrases at your alma mater today, but that doesn't mean they aren't saying them elsewhere or that the meaning's in any way unclear. I can tell you from experience that the "F--k Patois" is universal.
The other not-necessarily-terrible-but-still-disconcerting thing is that Wolfe's plot meanders hither and yon: it's there, but this book is largely a collection of scenes rather than a flowing work. Minor nitpick: my God, this guy uses more italics than Cosmopolitan.
The good things about this novel are many, and largely offset the bad. The last point first: what scenes! They ooze reality and dramatic tension, and some of them are laugh-out-loud funny.
I found myself rooting for different characters throughout the novel (my interest in Charlotte deteriorated as her angst increased). Some of the lesser lights are very well drawn. I thought Jojo and Adam were particularly well crafted. Wolfe's also got a real turn of phrase. Most importantly, he's managed to nail down a piece of collegiate darkness and shove it out into the light for us to see...and any reader saying things can't be THAT bad is fooling himself.)
In short, I enjoyed this read almost in spite of myself.
Wolfe's uses of the more colourful phrases are, I find, purposefully over-used, which turns their power in upon themselves. Sooner or later, the senses stop reeling, which is what all users of F*ck Patois learn when they finally discover that the words have lost all meaning. Wolfe draws a fine sketch of a stuttering, intellectual wreck when this happens.
In the end, "I am Charlotte Simmons" is a highly enjoyable read that delivers sometimes-uncomfortable, sometimes-hysterically funny insights that pack the wallop of a morality play. Should be on every frosh's reading list.
I liked Charlotte overall, even though I winced at her high and mighty attitude and her growing angst. I also found her a bit unconvincing at just how innocent and easily shocked she was supposed to be, although I have no knowledge of the goings on in Sparta, where she is from; I just found it a bit hard to swallow that she was so shocked by bad language, didn't know what slang words for sexual acts meant, and that she had never seen an issue of Cosmopolitan. I think I liked Jojo the best at the end of the novel, even though he was one of my least favorites in the beginning. I enjoyed learning new things in some of Wolfe's passages, like in Charlotte's classes. Overall, the characters were well drawn up, and Wolfe succeeds in creating a voyeuristic satire on contemporary college life.
There were a few things about the book I found frustrating. One of them was Wolfe's need to explain to the reader what everything was. for example, he explains in great detail "F--k Patois" and thus describes uneccesarily how the words "F--k" and "s--t" are used today. He gives us definitions of slang, and when slang is used, he points it out, its origins, and what it means. I could be missing something and this could be part of the satirical aspect of the book, but to me it gave the book a certain innaccuracy.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
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 on Nov. 30 2013 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 on June 19 2013 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