So Where’s the Zeitgeist? It Looks Just Like College

Review of I Am Charlotte Simmons. Michiko Kakutani, New York Times, October 29, 2004.

In a famous and much contested 1989 literary manifesto, Tom Wolfe called upon novelists to head “out into this wild, bizarre, unpredictable, hog-stomping Baroque country of ours and reclaim it as literary property.” He exhorted “a battalion, a brigade, of Zolas” to take fiction writing back from the navel-gazers and post-modernists and to re-embrace the realist tradition – to tackle, pinion and hog-tie the great American zeitgeist, to document what he once called the “irresistibly lurid carnival of American life.”

In his flat-footed new novel, “I Am Charlotte Simmons,” Mr. Wolfe does not tackle the zeitgeist. He does not tackle big-city racial politics, big-business financial shenanigans or big-time criminal justice as he did in his first two novels, “The Bonfire of the Vanities” (1987) and “A Man in Full” (1998). Nor does he lasso the sights and sounds and language – the ineluctable feel of a decade – as he did in those earlier books…

New York Times