My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Call it the hillbilly southern cousin to Bonfire of the Vanities, yet another treatise (monograph?) on status and sex, Wolfe's fourth now in the series and each one with fewer insights and with less to say. So the champion of WASP America is back with long passages of description in which he often commits the mortal sin of being boring, of dragging on a not-shit incident well past what is necessary in fiction...and this is just in the prologue.
I've hated Wolfe's politics ever since his idiotic Harper's article in which he basically said that America must unapologetically rule the world (an essay George W. Bush and company seemed to use as a playbook) yet he still amazes me with his limited world view. He has what-the-fuck passages like this:
Boys like this kid grow up instinctively realizing that language is an artifact, like a sword or a gun. Used skillfully, it has the power to… well, not so much achieve things as to tear things down—including people… including the boys who came out on the strong side of that sheerly dividing line. Hey, that’s what liberals are! Ideology? Economics? Social justice? Those are nothing but their prom outfits. Their politics were set for life in the schoolyard at age six. They were the weak, and forever after they resented the strong. That’s why so many journalists are liberals! The very same schoolyard events that pushed them toward the written word… pushed them toward “liberalism.” It’s as simple as that! And talk about irony!
It’s like Wolfe is apologizing for once being a pussy journalist. He seems so impressed with anyone not scared shitless of their own shadow that you feel sorry for the bullied author.
He has a few moments and if this work were by any writer other than Wolfe I would rate it higher but from the author of Bonfire of the Vanities I expect quite a bit more. The bad parts are often punctuated by a bit of clarity like this in which he describes two teenage boys:
What a mess the two of them were!… jeans pulled down so low on their hips you couldn’t help but see their loud boxer shorts… obviously the lower and louder, the better. The pants of both boys ended in puddles of denim on the floor, all but obscuring their sneakers, which had Day-Glo strips going this way and that… both in too-big, too-loose T-shirts whose sleeves hung down over their elbows and whose tails hung outside the jeans, but not far enough to obscure the hideous boxer shorts… both with bandannas around their foreheads bearing “the colors” of whatever fraternal organization they thought they belonged to.
All I can say is that Wolfe is a lot more impressed by muscles, and slutty chicks, and wealth, and status, and rich assholes than I ever have been. Instead of being obsessed with the muscles on other guys I suggest he start doing pull-ups and get a few of his own.
He describes one scene at some completely vulgar boating regatta in Miami that is right out of Girls Gone Wild, a video series I’m sure Wolfe admires infinitely. It’s hard for me to imagine that anyone with an IQ over 80 would be impressed by a bunch of assholes with speedboats and sluts in thongs. Am I really supposed to be impressed by a fucking speed boat? Not even when I was 15. He goes on to describe an erect penis like he's never seen one before. And who knows? Maybe he hasn’t. Instead of a book award someone give him a bottle of Cialis.
Sorry Mr. Wolfe, but you'll excuse me if I’m not impressed by this idiotic frat bash. I spent a good chunk of my youth traveling among the Greek islands. If we had heard some moron yelping a "WooHoo" at exposed female breasts we would have told him to shut the fuck up and grow the fuck up.
You have to wonder of Wolfe ever got laid in his youth, especially after you read I Am Charlotte Simmons. Perhaps his status of virgin passed from his numb-nut preppy youth on into his middle age in which he began to wear white suits, all but insuring that he would never get any action.
And why, why, why does Wolfe think it so clever, clever, clever to repeat, repeat, repeat shit? Stop, fucking stop, for the love of Christ stop, stop or I'll shoot!
And someone besides Wolfe please explain to me how modern representational art has any meaning in our society except among a very select, very few oligarchs who use paintings as the hyper-rich equivalent of baseball trading cards. Are modern artists motivated by the desire to have their work displayed in the homes of Russian mafia lords and quasi-literate Wall Street marauders? Is there anything you could call a public for modern painting?
A cop who has never been to Starbucks or who would be shocked by a coffee that costs $1.90? It makes you wonder what planet Wolfe is from. People in Spain are sometimes shocked at Starbucks’ prices but I never knew a place in Miami where you could get a cortado for 75 cents, and that was many years ago.
And what could be more boring than a written account of what goes on in a strip club?
And for fuck’s sake please stop saying “Dios mío” you affected, white bread, douche bag.
The nurse in the story must have had the lowest SAT verbal of anyone ever admitted to nursing school. Seriously, what adult doesn’t know what “unceremoniously” means? If I heard the word in Russian I could at least figure it out by the context.