The Pathetic Wolfes
So, Tom Wolfe hauls his bony behind out of his Upper East Side apartment to do the press for his new novel. So we get Wolfe in the Observer, the Guardian and the New York Times, the last of which features a picture designed to scare the children, or any of those horrid hypocritical liberals who think that he's on their side. About as scary as we got all weekend, truth be told.
The differences in approach are striking, with the New York Times mostly fixating on what an amazingly amazing man he is, and his feuds with the Mailers and Updikes. We get loving descriptions of his digs, and a few prurient glances at US college life, which is what he has decided to depict in his latest book.
But the left-leaning British sister papers decide that Wolfe's apartment would be a reliable place to take the pulse of the US on the eve of this Momentous Event. At which point, Wolfe sort of morphs into 1994-vintage Newt Gingrich. He rails against the chattering classes and the Upper East Side elite. He bitches about Tina Brown trying to convert the help at her dinner parties. Three decades on from Radical Chic, where Wolfe rather impressively skewered rich people adopting left-wing causes, he's still mining the same seam. Like Mugger with a sense of humour, or something.
If he'd acknowledged that the exquisite apartment, the frequent plugs from Jan Wenner, the New York Papers lapping up his every word, the rich friends, and the easy publicity were nasty manifestations of being the paid stooge of the people he sets out to skewer it would be fine and dandy, but Wolfe seems to feel that the sales of the Bonfire Of the Vanities have made him connect with, and serve, a wider audience than the one he seems to despise so much. Tom, we love your stuff, but we prefer our brick-chuckers with much better credentials.