The Pump House Gang

New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1968.

Summary from Publisher:

Running throughout The Pump House Gang is the central theme of most of Tom Wolfe’s writing: Status. Much of the book deals with a surprising phenomenon in contemporary life: a determined retreat from conventional social hierarchies that Tom Wolfe calls “starting your own league.” Surfers, motorcyclists, lumpen-dandies and . . . yes . . . stay-at-homes (see “The King of the Status Drop-Outs”)-everybody’s doing it. Except for die-hards in the crumbling old social worlds of New York and London, where the confusion is so great (see “Bob and Spike” and “The Mid-Atlantic Man”) that nobody can tell whether this is really the path to the top they’ve taken or just the service elevator.

Dazzlingly brilliant as a stylist, daringly provocative as a commentator, and always entertaining, Tom Wolfe is in his new book quite thoroughly . . . himself. He is at his best with the Pump House Gang, a remarkable surfing elite–who reappear briefly in a book published simultaneously with this one, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, about the adventures of Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, the rise of the psychedelic life style in America, and the founding of a bizarre new religion. In the midst of it all, many members of the redoubtable Pump House Gang become indoor sports-happily freaking out in pads rather than wiping out in the surf, but with the same unique Pump House Gang flair.

Table of Contents:

Part One

1. The pump house gang
2. The mid-Atlantic man
3. King of the status dropouts
4. The put-together girl
5. The noonday underground
6. The mild ones
7. The hair boys
8. What if he is right?

Part Two

9. Bob and Spike
10. Tom Wolfe’s new book of etiquette
11. The life & hard times of a teenage London society girl
12. The private game
13. The automated hotel
14. The shockkkkkk of recognition
15. O rotten Gotham – sliding down into the behavioral sink

Online: (excerpt)