One of the preeminent chroniclers of the sociological circus that is New York City, Tom Wolfe recently spoke to The American Spectator at his Upper East Side apartment about the Big Apple’s most famous resident turned presidential candidate.
TAS: Having written so much about New York City, the rise of Donald Trump must be a subject of interest to you.
Tom Wolfe: It is. There is a lot of distress and contempt for government and he is capitalizing on that. He has also said a lot of things that are politically incorrect. He comes out and says things like, no more illegal immigrants from Mexico, no more immigrants from Islamic countries, and so on, and a lot of people say, “Hey, yeah, finally, someone has come out and said what I believe.”
Trump is not caught up in the whole ethos of politics. He goes from gaffe to gaffe and it only helps him. I have never seen anything quite like it.
You would think, for example, that his refusal to be on a television program with Megyn Kelly [at Fox News] would hurt him. My God, if you can’t debate Megyn Kelly, what are you going to do with Vladimir Putin? But it didn’t hurt him at all. That seemed to help him also.
I love the fact that he has a real childish side to him, saying things like: I am too worth ten billion! Most politicians would play that down, that they have all this money, but he is determined to let people know that. And he wants people to know that five billion of it comes from just his name—that you can start a hotel and call it Trump and it is going to be a success.
TAS: Do you see him as a New York original?
Wolfe: He is a lovable megalomaniac. People get a big kick out of going to his office and behind his desk is this wall of pictures of himself in the news. The childishness makes him seem honest. Read the rest of this entry »
Author Tom Wolfe discusses the ideas and inspirations for Back to Blood, a story of decadence and the new America. In the book , Wolfe paints a story of a decaying culture enduring constant uncertainty. Heroes are spurned and abused, and values are dissolving; the message seems to be to stick with the good values.
An oral history of the epic space film “The Right Stuff” http://t.co/rfNH71hrYS
— WIRED (@WIRED) November 24, 2014
You won’t want to miss the self-defeating intra-conservative circular-firing-squad in the comments section, inspired by this article about Ann Coulter. Apparently Coulter still has a talent for inflaming readers and entertaining audiences.
Question: Is Ann not right wing enough to satisfy some of the sore losers out there? Answer not needed, it’s not a serious question.
Coulter’s apparent disinterest in indulging a self-serving question from a radio-call-in listener (a peculiar self-appointed “Republican precinct committeeman” fetishist) inspired him to take his crackpot complaints to the article’s comments section. Not satisfied with annoying the disinterested Coulter (who had the good sense to not take it seriously) the radio-call-in guy took his tiresome laundry list of “important unanswered questions”–to the comments section, to draw attention to himself for the next ten hours. And a lot of unrelated comments, too. Very funny stuff. Here’s the article from Breitbart. Then check out the long, long chain of comments at the source page.
Joel B. Pollak reports: Conservative columnist Ann Coulter entertained an audience of 400 at the University of Southern California on Sunday night at an event co-sponsored by the USC College Republicans and the Hancock Park Patriots, a local Tea Party group.
Fears of large and violent protests failed to materialize, as five peaceful demonstrators were the only presence outside the Ronald Tudor Campus Center.
Coulter spoke at length about crime, and the New York of the 1980s–to which, she joked, New Yorkers were about to return with leftist Bill de Blasio as mayor. (She is re-reading Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities to prepare, she joked.)
Though she has written about race and crime, she is an equal-opportunity critic–arguing, for instance, that accused murderer Amanda Knox was protected by the U.S. media because she is a “pretty white girl.”
There were plenty of macabre jokes to follow–including an extended riff on how several MSNBC hosts would each commit suicide (“Chris Matthews would bungle it…Al Sharpton would do it in such a way as to blame some poor white guy”). On a more serious note, she slammed MSNBC for attacking what they called “pro-rape Republicans” over the Jamie Lee Jones rape case, in which the victim’s claims were dismissed and she was ordered to pay the attorneys’ costs of her former employer, an American military contractor.
In the Golden State, the great writer first chronicled the social changes that would transform America
Michael Anton writes: Tom Wolfe is most identified with New York City, for good reason. He has lived and worked in Manhattan since the early 1960s, and New York dominates his writing the way London looms for Dickens. But Wolfe has never been afraid to venture from his home turf—this fall’s Back to Blood, an exploration of Miami, is a case in point—and his true literary second home is California. Over the course of his career, Wolfe has devoted more pages to the Golden State than to any setting other than Gotham. In his early years, from the mid-1960s through the early 1970s, the ratio was almost one-to-one.
More to the point, the core insights on which he built his career—the devolution of style to the masses, status as a replacement for social class, the “happiness explosion” in postwar America—all first came to him in California. Even books in which the state figures not at all are informed by Wolfe’s observations of the West. Without California, there would be no Wolfe as we know him—no Bonfire, noRight Stuff, no Radical Chic or Me Decade, none of the blockbuster titles or era-defining phrases that made him world-famous.
And without Wolfe, we would not understand California—or the California-ized modern world. At the time of his most frequent visits, the state was undergoing a profound change, one that affects it to this day and whose every aspect has been exported throughout the country and the globe. Both have become much more like California over the last 40 years, even as California has drifted away from its old self, and Wolfe has chronicled and explained it all.
It started by accident. Wolfe was working for the New York Herald Tribune, which, along with eight other local papers, shut down for 114 days during the 1962–63 newspaper strike. He had recently written about a custom car show—phoned it in, by his own admission—but he knew there was more to the story. Temporarily without an income, he pitched a story about the custom car scene to Esquire. “Really, I needed to make some money,” Wolfe tells me. “You could draw a per diem from the newspaper writers’ guild, but it was a pittance. I was in bad shape,” he chuckles. Esquire bit and sent the 32-year-old on his first visit to the West—to Southern California, epicenter of the subculture.
Wolfe saw plenty on that trip, from Santa Monica to North Hollywood to Maywood, from the gardens and suburbs of mid-’60s Southern California to its dung heaps. He saw so much that he didn’t know what to make of it all. Returning to New York in despair, he told Esquire that he couldn’t write the piece. Well, they said, we already have the art laid in, so we have to do something; type up your notes and send them over. “Can you imagine anything more humiliating than being told, ‘Type up your notes, we’ll have a real writer do the piece’?” Wolfe asks. He stayed up all night writing a 49-page memo—which Esquire printed nearly verbatim.
It’s a great tale, but, one fears, too cute to be strictly true. I ask him about it point-blank. “Oh, yes, that’s exactly what happened,” he says. “I wrote it like a letter, to an audience of literally one person”—Esquire managing editor Byron Dobell—“with all these block phrases and asides. But at some point in the middle of the night, I started to think it might actually be pretty good.”
That piece—“The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby”—represents the first time that Wolfe truly understood and was able to formulate the big idea that would transform him from an above-average feature writer into the premier cultural chronicler of our age. Those inhabiting the custom car scene were not rich, certainly not upper-class, and not prominent— indeed, they were almost invisible to society at large. Wolfe described his initial attempt to write the story as a cheap dismissal: “Don’t worry, these people are nothing.” He realized in California that he had been wrong. These people were something, and very influential within their own circles, which were far larger than anyone on the outside had hitherto noticed.