i think i've come full circle with tom wolfe. for reasons long buried in the sands of time, i read the bonfire of the vanities in seventh grade: to a twelve-year-old who knew fuck-all of new york, the cra-azy '80s, and wolfe's previous stuff, it was an exotic page-turner that, though detailed, kinda underwhelmed. i am charlotte simmons, on the other hand, is straight outta my backyard: all of the stanford kids remember wolfe's weird campus fact-finding missions in our junior and senior years. again i read quickly; again, i won't feel like re-reading any time soon. poor charlotte reads like a gothic heroine, or jane austen's fanny price:
She slumped back into the chair once more and stared out the window a few light-years into the darkness. This, she figured, was it. Right here was the point where she either cried out or she didn't cry out. Momma, only you can help me! Who else do I have! Listen to me! Let me tell you the truth! Beverly doesn't just return in the dead of night and "go to bed really late"! She brings boys into bed - and they rut-rut-rut do it - barely four feet from my bed! She leads a wanton sex life! The whole place does! Girls sexile each other! Rich girls with fifteen hundred SATs cry out, "I need some ass!" "I'm gonna go out and get laid!" The girls, Momma, the girls, right in front of you! Momma - what am I to do...
ingenues are useful when one wants to share research about big, bad university life, but they should be plausible and sympathetic. charlotte sounds like a time traveler rather than an innocent, and her Golden Child confidence ("The invincible truth was, she possessed a brilliance unparalleled here or anywhere else") sucks the pity right out of me. wolfe's constant reminders that she and her buddies are types rather than people ("Adam, essentially a literary intellectual, didn't realize he was listening to the typical depressed girl who has made the appalling discovery that she is worthless"), in turn, makes them unlikable and uninteresting. no more fiction, tom wolfe. please.

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