The New York Times talks with various people about Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities on the twentieth anniversary of its publication. What does Wolfe think about New York today? “One day this is just going to be a Disneyland. This’ll just be a place where people come for entertainment, that’ll be it. There’ll be no industry other than the entertainment of just being here. If the financial industry should leave — and it could, any time it wants, it could leave. Only that excitement … keeps them here. They want to be able to call themselves ‘Wall Street.'”
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In a series of essays on what American life would have been had 9/11 not happened, Tom Wolfe writes, “A local music genre called hip-hop, created by black homeboys in the South Bronx, would have swept the country, topping the charts and creating a hip-hop look featuring baggy jeans with the crotch hanging down to the knees that would have spread far and wide among white teenagers—awed, stunned, as they were, by the hip-hop musicians’ new form of competition: assassinating each other periodically. How cool would that have been?”
Mr. Wolfe seems to be under the impression that this didn’t happen before 2001. Baggy jeans hanging down to the knees have been part and parcel of American culture since the mid-1990s among all manner of teenagers. (In fact, I remember my old roommate and me sitting on the N Judah one drunken evening in 1997. We asked one young man why his trousers went down to his knees and he responded simply, “O.G., man.”)
I hereby ask Tom Wolfe to recuse himself from any further cultural commentary in any and all publications found on the newsstand. He is worn out, spent, and about as perspicacious as a pigeon sputtering about Central Park for scraps of bread. If I Am Charlotte Simmons didn’t establish how embarassingly out-of-touch he was with current culture, his offering in New York magazine is the smoking gun.
- No jokes about the white suit or my hired minions beat you up.
- You must refer to me as “Charlotte Simmons” rather than “Tom Wolfe.”
- For every autograph granted, you must sign an agreement in which you will never utter a bad word about my novel. Failure to utter hosannas about my genius will involve expensive litigation through Farrar.
- Bonfire of the Vanities? There was no Bonfire of the Vanities, nor was there A Man in Full.
- I invented gonzo journalism and you didn’t.
- Don’t ask for an unnecessary exclamation point from me. The book speaks for itself! It’s just “Tom Wolfe,” not “With love, from Tom Wolfe” or “To my dearest Bertha, Tom Wolfe.” Stop adoring me, buy my book and leave me alone!
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