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Thread: A Man in Full

  1. #1
    ad hoc's Avatar
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    A Man in Full

    Tom Wolfe has died. At times he was an absolutely superb writer.

  2. #2
    ursus arctos's Avatar
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    Very much so.

    RIP

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    Amor de Cosmos's Avatar
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    Oh shit. His writing was massive part of my teenage years. I was thinking just the other day I must reread some of those early essays.

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    Gangster Octopus's Avatar
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    I must admit, I've only read Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. Did enjoy it, mind.

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    Amor de Cosmos's Avatar
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    Klaus Kinski (if he was alive, like)
    These were all huge for me:

    The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby (1965)
    The Pump House Gang (1968)
    Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers (1970)
    The Painted Word (1975)

    As well as The Right Stuff and The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test of course. I was never able to get on with his fiction though.
    Last edited by Amor de Cosmos; 15-05-2018 at 18:40.

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    I only read the big novels: The Right Stuff, Bonfire, Man In Full, Charlotte Simmonds. But they were all brilliantly written.

    Particularly The Right Stuff, which remains one of my favourite books of all.

  7. #7
    Lang Spoon's Avatar
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    I never got the novels, while I could take his waspish contrarian thing when he was slating Bernstein and the likes in Radical Chic I found the author’s voice really unpleasant in Bonfire of the Vanities and A Man in Full.

    Kool-Aid was great though, could simultaneously despise Cassady and feel for him. A trick fucking Kerouac never managed for me.

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    How did I not know about The Pump House Gang until today?

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    ursus arctos's Avatar
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    I can understand it not having made a big splash in the UK when it came out. It was rather niche here.

    I prefer the New Journalism stuff to the novels, though the latter include sublime writing

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    I'm thinking more specifically about the essay rather than the collection, which turns out to be San Diego local colour. I'd have thought it would have come up somewhere in conversation, considering.

  11. #11
    Amor de Cosmos's Avatar
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    I wouldn't beat yourself up about it. Several of his subjects were relatively obscure then and have become more so with the passing of time. I mean Joan Juliet Buck and Carol Doda haven't particularly lived on in our collectively memory.

  12. #12
    Amor de Cosmos's Avatar
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    Having said that, my God, coming across The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby at sixteen was simultaneously a huge vindication of my own taste/interests, and a brand new window into US culture. He wrote seriously about Phil Spector, who I doted on in my early teens, no one else had done that. And Ed Roth, who we only knew from the boxes of Revell plastic car kits, but was undoubtedly more than 361 degrees of krazy kool. Then in The Pump-House Gang he explained Marshall McLuhan in language I could understand, so another window flew open. There are writers and artists you need at a certain age and, for me, Wolfe was one of them.

  13. #13
    Hot Pepsi's Avatar
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    I recall a few years back he did the commencement at BU. They made him a special all-white robe. I didn't see the whole thing, but some of it on CSPAN. He was, for some reason, shitting on (figuratively) Noam Chomsky by saying that the definition of a public intellectual is somebody who is an expert on one thing who talks a lot about something he doesn't know anything about.

    The take-down was artful, but also douchey and ironic, given that at the time, Wolfe was peddling his book about how the kidsthesedays are all living in sin and how colleges are now a wretched hive of scum and villainy - based on, as far as I can tell, a handful of interviews with kids. Or at least that's how I remember it. Anyway, I didn't want to read the book.
    Last edited by Hot Pepsi; 16-05-2018 at 01:08.

  14. #14
    Amor de Cosmos's Avatar
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    Was that The Kingdom of Speech? It was his last book, on Chomsky and Darwin. I haven't read it, but that sort of in depth critique doesn't seem as if it played to his strengths. It sounds more like an obsession of the elderly mind. At his best he was a reporter — a kind of journalist/cultural anthropologist with an inquiring mind who described what he was seeing with a kind of detached, "can you believe this?" attitude.

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    Hot Pepsi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Amor de Cosmos View Post
    Was that The Kingdom of Speech? It was his last book, on Chomsky and Darwin. I haven't read it, but that sort of in depth critique doesn't seem as if it played to his strengths. It sounds more like an obsession of the elderly mind. At his best he was a reporter — a kind of journalist/cultural anthropologist with an inquiring mind who described what he was seeing with a kind of detached, "can you believe this?" attitude.
    No, it was before that, though my understanding, based on the reviews, is that the book on evolution and language was really awful and that he didnít have a fucking clue what he was talking about.

    He was hardly the first great mind to overreach badly and he wonít be the last. Mark Twain probably (definitely?) talked some bullshit too.

  16. #16
    Amor de Cosmos's Avatar
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    I don't really think he was a great mind at all. Only an extremely good observer of his times.

  17. #17
    ursus arctos's Avatar
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    He listened as well as he wrote, which can take one a very long way.

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    ad hoc's Avatar
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    Somewhat oddly the obituary that the Guardian has published today was written by someone who died two years ago.
    https://www.theguardian.com/books/20...wolfe-obituary

  19. #19
    ursus arctos's Avatar
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    He would have appreciated the intrinsic silliness of that

  20. #20
    Amor de Cosmos's Avatar
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    Lang Spoon's Avatar
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    Yep I’m there too. His prose was so peppy and alive in his journalism, felt like airport stuff in his fiction.

  22. #22
    From Bauhaus To Our House is a fun polemic.

  23. #23
    Lang Spoon's Avatar
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    Mostly bollocks but.

  24. #24
    Yeah, it's all bollocks, but it's fun.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Amor de Cosmos View Post
    The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby (1965)
    I finally got off my ass and ordered this off Abebooks.

    The package arrived from Victoria, BC on Friday (I always choose the Canadian option if the price is close), containing a lovely book called Baseball Bats for Christmas by Michael Kusugak. What the fuck....

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