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Hooking Up ()

    Mr. Wolfe peremptorily declares that by the year 2000 in America, "the average electrician,
    air-conditioning mechanic, or burglar-alarm repairman lived a life that would have made the Sun
    King blink," guzzling pints of expensive designer water and spending "his vacations in Puerto
    Vallarta, Barbados, or St. Kitts" (never mind the millions of Americans without health insurance).
        -REVIEW : of Hooking Up by Tom Wolfe (Michiko Kakutani, NY Times)

In all fairness, let me first state that I love Tom Wolfe.  But I also think Michiko Kakutani is just about the best book reviewer around.  Though the literati object to the moralistic tone of some of her reviews, it seems to me that she's just treating books with the seriousness they deserve and judging them by an exacting, but fair, standard.  But look at that blurb above, where she's discussing the title essay of Hooking Up : why is it that Wolfe, uniquely among modern authors, reduces people to the point of self-caricature ?  I mean, if Tom Wolfe were satirizing a NY Times critic, he might include that "millions of Americans without health insurance" bit.  Does anyone, not completely seduced by ideology, really believe that the current state of American culture is defined by the persistence of the uninsured ?

Luckily for her, Ms Kakutani was relatively favorable in her treatment of A Man in Full, so she manages to avoid the evisceration that Wolfe administers to the "Three Stooges" : Norman Mailer, John Updike and John Irving.  Mailer, in the New York Review of Books, and Updike, in The New Yorker, both argued that Wolfe's last novel was somehow not literature, that it was mere "journalism" or "entertainment."  After Wolfe responded rather harshly, Irving came to their defense in a fairly bizarre television interview for Canadian Broadcasting.  Wolfe takes full advantage of the opportunity to wreak vengeance on all three here.  His essential argument, which he first developed in his essay Stalking the Billion-footed Beast, is that such authors wasted their careers by writing completely insular and "literary" novels instead of writing more naturally, exploiting the techniques of journalism and getting out and experiencing life in the America that they presume to write about.  As always, he's hilarious and he easily gets the best of these three extravagantly overrated old lions.

That exercise is enjoyable enough, but pretty minor.  The real reason to buy the book is because his great novella Ambush at Fort Bragg finally sees print.  Here's what I said about it in a prior review.

Also included here, and reprinted for the first time, are his reputation making essays from 1965 : Tiny Mummies! The True Story of the Ruler of 43rd Street's Land of the Walking Dead! and Lost in the Whichy Thickets: The New Yorker.  This two part satire of the New Yorker--which ran in New York Magazine when it had just been spun off from the old New York Herald Tribune--early on established Wolfe as a scourge of the intellectual class and represented a seminal moment in the birth of New Journalism.  Most important, they are very funny, particularly if you, like nearly everyone else outside of New York City drawing rooms, find The New Yorker deadly dull.

Add all these pieces together and toss in a couple other recent works and you've got a fine collection by a brilliant observer of modern American culture.  Here's hoping he finishes the new novel he's working on.


Grade: (A+)


See also:

Tom Wolfe (7 books reviewed)
Tom Wolfe Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: Tom Wolfe
    -INDEX: Tom Wolfe (Harper's)
    -INDEX: Tom Wolfe (Esquire)
-ESSAY: Tom Wolfe Appreciates "Studs Lonigan" (Tom Wolfe, Top Ten Books)
    -AUDIO INTERVIEW: Studs Terkel and Tom Wolfe discuss architecture and Wolfe's book, From Bauhaus to Our House (Studs Terkel Radio Archive, BROADCAST: Nov. 16, 1981)
    -ESSAY: The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby (Tom Wolfe, Esquire)
    -ESSAY: The Marvelous Mouth of Cassius Clay: The year before he became Muhammad Ali forever, legendary writer Tom Wolfe spent a week and a half with the legend (Tom Wolfe, Esquire)
    -ESSAY: The Birth of ‘The New Journalism’; Eyewitness Report (Tom Wolfe, New York)
    -ESSAY: Radical Chic: That Party at Lenny’s (Tom Wolfe, New York)
    -ESSAY: The Building That Isn't There, Cont'd: One of the most important buildings in the history of 20th-century architecture will soon be vaporized. (TOM WOLFE, 10/13/03, NY Times)
    -AUDIO: A TimesTalks Event: Tom Wolfe (NY Times, 3/08/03)
    -QUESTIONS: Tom Wolfe: Following his participation in the TimesTalks series on March 8, the author answered readers' questions. (NY Times, April 24, 2003)
    -ESSAY: REVOLUTIONARIES: how the Manhattan Institute changed New York City and America (Tom Wolfe, January 30, 2003, NY Post)
    -ESSAY: Idea Fashions of the Eighties: After Marx, What? (Tom Wolfe, January 1984, Imprimis)
    -ESSAY: Stalking the billion-footed beast: A literary manifesto for the new social novel (Tom Wolfe, Harper's)
    -ESSAY: THE LAST AMERICAN HERO IS JUNIOR JOHNSON. YES! (Tom Wolfe, 3/01/1965, Esquire)
    -AUDIO: The Last American Hero is Junior Johnson. Yes!
-PODCAST: The Wolfe in the White Suit (w/ Osita Nwanevu): Writer Osita Nwanevu joins to discuss the life and work of novelist and "new journalist" Tom Wolfe. (Know your Enemy, 7/05/24)
-ESSAY: The Electric Kool-Aid Conservative Tom Wolfe was no radical. (Osita Nwanevu/January 5, 2024, New Republic)
    -ESSAY: Why does no one write like Tom Wolfe any more?: In a polarised culture, appetite for the late writer’s brand of wry conservative satire has waned – and he is partly to blame. (Nick Burns, 12/28/23, New Statesman)
    -TRIBUTE: The Statustician!:Tom Wolfe was death on intellectual pretension, and he mocked those who always sought out the worst in America. (JOSEPH EPSTEIN, May 24, 2018, Weekly Standard)
    -PROFILE: Status Reporter: Tom Wolfe's advice: Escape the "parenthesis states" and explore America (JOSEPH RAGO, March 11, 2006, Opinion Journal)
    -INTERVIEW: Mummy Wrap: an interview with Tom Wolfe (George Neumayr, 1/10/2005, American Spectator)
    -ESSAY: The author in full: Tom Wolfe: Wolfe excelled at capturing human foibles and petty vanities; anything deeper than that escaped him (Chilton Williamson, Jr., 11/11/20, The Spectator)
    -INTERVIEW: Tom Wolfe on how speech made us human (Steve Heilig, March 16, 2008, SF Gate)
    -VIDEO INTERVIEW: Firing Line with William F. Buckley Jr.: Tom Wolfe and The Painted Word (Firing Line with William F. Buckley, Jr., Episode S0191, Recorded on July 9, 1975)
    -PROFILE: The Ice Cream Man with the Clean White Suit (Alex Belth, The Stacks Reader)
    -EXCERPT: Wolfe and Breslin and the Birth of New York Magazine (Richard Kluger, From The Paper: The Life and Death of the New York Herald Tribune)
    -ESSAY: Tom Wolfe: The Satirist Whose Wit Hardened into Contempt 1930-2018 (KEVIN BAKER, December 30, 2018, Politico)
-ESSAY: Bush's Official Reading List, and a Racy Omission (ELISABETH BUMILLER, 2/07/05, NY Times)
-ESSAY: Against De-Materialization: Tom Wolfe in the Age of NFTs (Julia Friedman and David Hawkes, 09 Mar 2022, Quillette)
    -ESSAY: ‘Radical Chic’: Still Cringey After All These Years: Like author Tom Wolfe's caustic take in 1970, radicalism is being cultivated today in the best penthouses and corporate suites. (JAMES PINKERTON, 6/10/20, American Conservative)
    -REVIEW: of The Purple Decades: A Reader by Tom Wolfe (James Walcott, NY Review of Books)
    Modern, All Too Modern: Tom Wolfe's new novel, largely reviewed as a satiric report on the sexual mores of today's college students, is fundamentally about the nature of the human will.: a review of of I Am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe (S. T. Karnick, Books & Culture)
    -REVIEW ESSAY: Tom Wolfe - A Clear Eye for Human Biodiversity (Steve Sailer, January 02, 2005, V-Dare)
    -REVIEW: of I Am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe (Dana B. Vachon, American Conservative)
    -REVIEW: of I am Charlotte Simmons, by Tom Wolfe (Ken Masugi,
    -REVIEW: of I Am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe (Priya Jain, Salon)
    -REVIEW: of I Am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe (S. T. Karnick, Books & Culture)
-REVIEW: of The Kingdom of Speech by Tom Wolfe (Andrew Zwart, Books & Culture)


    -REVIEW: of Radical Wolfe (Stephen Silver, Splice Today)
    -REVIEW: of Radical Wolfe, directed by Richard Dewey (John Tierney, City Journal)
    -ESSAY: Tom Wolfe’s Worldview Came Into Focus In New York (Christopher Bonanos, September 2023, Vulture)
    -PODCAST: Richard Dewey, John Tierney: Discussing the New Tom Wolfe Documentary (City Journal: 10 Blocks podcast, 9/15/23)
    -FILM REVIEW: Radical Wolfe (Titus Techera, Religion & Liberty)
    -TV REVIEW: Less Than Half ‘A Man in Full’: One of US television’s most experienced and talented writers has made a mess of Tom Wolfe’s second novel. (Kevin Mims, 13 May 2024, Quillette)

Book-related and General Links:
    -Tom Wolfe: A Man in Full
    -Caricature from The Atlantic
    -FEATURED AUTHOR: Tom Wolfe (NY Times Book Review)
    -ARCHIVES : "tom wolfe" (Find Articles)
    -Creative Nonfiction: Writers and Their Works
    -EXCERPT : Chapter One of Hooking Up by Tom Wolfe : What Life Was Like at the Turn of the Second Millennium: An American's World
    -ESSAY : Sorry, But Your Soul Just Died (Tom Wolfe, Forbes)
    -ETEXT: The Last American Hero by Tom Wolfe
    -EXCERPT: from A Man in Full : Prologue
    -EXCERPT: from A Man in Full : Chapter Two
    -ESSAY: Disciplines: What do a Jesuit priest, a Canadian communications theorist, and Darwin II all have in common? (Tom Wolfe, Forbes)
   -REVIEW: of THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF ROY COHN By Sidney Zion Dangerous Obsessions (Tom Wolfe, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of CECIL BEATON A Biography. By Hugo Vickers SNOB'S PROGRESS (Tom Wolfe, NY Times Book Review)
-REVIEW: of THE LAST LAUGH By S.J. Perelman THE EXPLOITS OF EL SID (Tom Wolfe, NY Times Book Review)
    -INTERVIEW : Tom Wolfe, in Full (Nicholas A. Basbanes, Lit Kit)
    -CBC Interview
    -INTERVIEW (Steve Hammer NUVO Newsweekly)
    -PROFILE : BRILLIANT CAREERS : Tom Wolfe :  He put New Journalism on the map with writing that shook as fiercely as it shimmered. (CARY TENNIS, Salon)
    -PROFILE: TOM WOLFE, MATERIAL BOY (Rand Richards Cooper, Commonweal)
    -Profile: Tom Wolfe, in 'Full' flower (USA Today)
    -PROFILE : The Wolfe in Chic Clothing :  Manliness runs a deep course through American life, but it is hard to find at Harvard, says Tom Wolfe.The celebrated author explains the contemporary male. FM returns the favor and examines Wolfe's own dubious masculinity (James Y. Stern, Harvard Crimson)
    -PROFILE: TOM WOLFE (Richard A. Kallan)
    -PROFILE: Don Dapper: Tom Wolfe conquers windmills on Brown's battlefield (Amanda Griscom)
    -Tom Wolfe: The Satirist of Society (Caitlin Allen, Brighton High School)
    -ESSAY : November 4, London.(Below the Fold)(The Lancet)
    -ESSAY : ON LANGUAGE : Hooking Up (WILLIAM SAFIRE, NY Times Magazine)
    -ESSAY :  Schooling Public Intellectuals : A Talking Head Ph.D. (Norah Vincent, Village Voice)
    -ARTICLE : Tom Wolfe Disinters "Tiny Mummies!" After 35 Years (Gabriel Snyder, NY Observer)
    -REVIEW : of Hooking Up by Tom Wolfe (Michiko Kakutani, NY Times)
    -REVIEW : of Hooking Up by Tom Wolfe (Maureen Dowd, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Hooking Up Scourge of the Tiny Mummies Embalmed in His White Suit (Adam Begley, NY Observer)
    -REVIEW : of Hooking Up (John Gross, booksonline uk)
    -REVIEW : of Hooking Up (SUSAN SALTER REYNOLDS, LA Times)
    -REVIEW : A Wolfe in Hack's Clothing (Judith Shulevitz, Slate)
    -REVIEW : of Hooking Up by Tom Wolfe (NY Observer)
    -REVIEW : that a Jewish name? : Mark Gimein on some surprising stereotypes in Tom Wolfe's Hooking Up (FEED)
    -REVIEW : of Hooking Up (Benjamin Svetkey, Entertainment Weekly)
    -REVIEW : of Hooking Up  : Making the Cinders Dance (Bruce S. Thornton,
    -REVIEW : of Hooking Up (Bruce Thornton,  National Review)
    -REVIEWS : of Tom Wolfe's Hooking Up and James Hynes' The Lecturer's Tale (Clyde Wilson, Chronicles)

    -Creative Nonfiction: Writers and Their Works
    -NEW JOURNALISM by Dave Selden, Jr.
    -Parajournalism II: Wolfe and The New Yorker (DWIGHT MACDONALD, NY Review of Books)
    -The Birth of Way New Journalism (Joshua Quittner,  HotWired)

    -REVIEW : Dec 17, 1998 Norman Mailer: A Man Half Full, NY Review of Books
       A Man in Full by Tom Wolfe
    -ESSAY : John Irving blasts Tom Wolfe, Wolfe blasts back : Irving says Wolfe can't write, Wolfe says Irving's all washed up (Craig Offman, Salon)
    -CBC Interview
    -ESSAY : Tom Wolfe calls Irving, Mailer and Updike "the Three Stooges" : "Bonfire of the Vanities" author fans literary feud. (Craig Offman, Salon)
    -ESSAY : It's Tom Wolfe Versus the 'Three Stooges?'  (Jim Windolf, NY Observer)
    -ESSAY : A feud in full :  Why are three US literary heavyweights lining up to stick the knife into Tom Wolfe? Julian Borger reports from Washington (booksunlimited uk)
    -ESSAY :  The Punch Lines : Feuding Writers Get Nasty (Susan Schapiro, Voice Literary Supplement)
    -ESSAY : That's Entertainment : Somehow, amid the celebration of Tom Wolfe's new novel, there seems to have been a slight misunderstanding (Sven Birkerts, Atlantic Monthly)

    -REVIEW of Ambush at Fort Bragg (Salon)
    -REVIEW: Tom Wolfe's sour note (Timothy Noah, US News and World Report)
    -ESSAY: The Widening Gap Between the Military and Society: The U.S. military is emerging as an increasingly autonomous political force whose values diverge more and more widely from those of the society it is supposed to protect (Thomas E. Ricks, The Atlantic)