He is Charlotte Simmons

Peter Berkowitz, Policy Review, February/March 2005.


How little the radicalness of the sexual revolution has been appreciated and how much questioning its consequences is deemed bad manners or worse has been amply demonstrated by the smugness with which many of the first wave of reviewers have ridiculed Tom Wolfe’s new novel. To hear the critics, speaking in the name of all that is hip and happening, tell it, I am Charlotte Simmons, though told with Wolfe’s trademark gusto and, as the critics grudgingly acknowledge, a rollicking good read, is a pathetic exercise in voyeurism by an old man repelled by, but in reality hopelessly unable to come to grips with, the social and sexual life of today’s college students. As if the stripping of eros and romance from sex, the most recent stage of which Wolfe chronicles in his big book, has not been a defining feature of campus life for four decades. As if Wolfe’s critics, in or fast approaching middle age, have a better grasp of what is going on in campus bedrooms, dormitory common areas, frat-house parties and college formals, student newspapers, seminars and lecture halls, Saturday-afternoon tailgaters, big-time basketball team practices, and university-president offices than Wolfe, who has been leading the league in reporting on American culture for almost 50 years and who, in preparing to write his third novel, took the trouble to spend fours years visiting campuses across the country and gathering information.

Hoover Institution