Who’s Afraid of Tom Wolfe?

Mary Ann Glendon, First Things, August 1999.


Why does Tom Wolfe’s latest book make the mandarins of taste so uncomfortable? John Updike took a good deal of space in the New Yorker to declare that A Man in Full was “entertainment, not literature.” Norman Mailer in the New York Review of Books dismissed the novel as an “adroit commercial counterfeit.” Martin Amis and others fell into line, all seemingly intent on assuring that no one took the book’s position at the top of the best“seller list as evidence of literary merit. When Wolfe’s work was passed over for last year’s Pulitzer and other awards, J. Bottum noted in the Weekly Standard that “There’s something about his sprawling brand of social realism that makes our literary professionals purse their lips in disapproval.”

First Things