Ben Casnocha’s Review of Tom Wolfe’s I Am Charlotte Simmons

I usually enjoy Tom Wolfe.  I remember reading The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test when I was in junior high and thinking something akin to “far out.”  I loved I Am Charlotte Simmons, especially Wolfe’s extraordinary detailed characters and complete mastery of the word fuck.

I never got around to reviewing I Am Charlotte Simmons but Ben Casnocha did today.  Ben is a recent high school graduate, a close friend, and an amazingly articulate guy.  His review of the book was as good as the book.  If you are in high school, recently started college, or a parent of either of the preceding categories of kids, this is likely to be a wildly interesting book for you to read.  If you simply love the incredible characters and storytelling of Tom Wolfe when he’s really on, you’ll also love it.

  • As someone who attended the University of Florida, still one of the top 5 party schools in the nation I believe, this book was actually a tame representation of what really goes on in the Greek system and elsewhere off campus.

    I was not in a fraternity, but I part-timed as a nightclub and party DJ and a few of the parties I DJ’d were frat. Trust me when I tell you that Tom Wolfe either didn’t do his research in a top 5 party school, or, more likely, he couldn’t get deep enough into the culture to experience the intensity of what really goes on.

    Altogether, I did enjoy the book and the protagonist character was very well developed.

  • Adam — The book was not set in a top 5 party school. It was set at one of the top 5 schools, period. Wolfe’s intensive reporting and research took place at schools like Stanford and Duke.

  • Brad,

    Given your interest in “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test,” I thought you might be interested in the Ken Kesey anecdote at the end of my recent comment on Ben’s blog:

    When I was a sophomore, the late great Ken Kesey (the Merry Prankster, author of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, and general literary legend) came to speak at my dorm. He was a fantastic and inspirational speaker, and I was awed, especially as an aspiring writer.

    Afterwards, various members of the dorm took Ken out to dinner, and thanks to a friend (she was dating the RA who had arranged the visit, though today she is married to my son’s godfather…funny how life works), I was invited along.

    What a night! Ken was a truly sparkling conversationalist, though I think he probably always remembered me as the kid who didn’t drink mai tais with him (even when under peer pressure from a celebrity personal humor, I refused to compromise my stance on alcohol…I was probably a little too rigid, but what’s done is done).

    We learned many things that night, including Ken’s secret for being so comfortable at speaking engagements (he habitually sipped a combination of orange juice, vodka, and LSD). At one point, the talk turned to Tom Wolfe.

    “Ah,” said Ken, “There’s an old saying that applies here. Shit floats, and cream rises. The trick is telling the difference. Jack Kerouac: cream rises. Tom Wolfe: shit floats.”

    I guess ol’ Ken wasn’t a fan of “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test!”

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