Tuesday, February 12, 2008

An Author in Full

Believe it or not, there was writing before the internet. Although the QLE tends to deal mostly in all things flat-screened, we recognize that there is more out there. In order to be well rounded we better start writing about books (literature?) lest we be perceived as undereducated rubes of the internet generation.

I have had a couple friends ask me in recent weeks for book recommendations. Although very different tastes , I found myself suggesting to each the author Tom Wolfe. You have heard of Tom Wolfe. Your parents read him, and you may well have been assigned his one his novels in high school. He has been writing since the 1960's, and his work spans generations, decades, issues and subjects like few other authors have.

1960's: The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. A nonfiction screamer in the genre known as "hysterical realism." Loaded with history of the bizarre and punctuation to match. Follows the Merry Pranksters on their trips of all varieties. Ken Kesey, Hunter S. Thompson, The Greatful Dead , Bob Dylan, Alan Ginsberg, The Hell's Angels, and Jack Kerouac all populate Wolfe's factual account of the long strange trip of the 60's. If you like it, check out Hunter S. Thompson's
Hell's Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs to see another account of many of the same people and events from a different angle.

1970's: The Right Stuff A nonfiction account of the Project Mercury astronauts and test pilots. Set against the space race and the Cold War, Wolfe tells the story of the men who NASA strapped on to the rockets they shot into space and how they and their families lived and dealt with the insane risks they took to win a largely symbolic war.

1980's: The Bonfire of the Vanities The first of Wolfe's fiction novels, it was originally published in installments in Rolling Stone. A story of wealth, power, race, sex and crime told through the lives and interactions of people from different classes of society. Wolfe's fiction novels are long, but he has a penchant for accurately capturing dialogue and culture that is consistently entertaining. He uses the length to great effect, creating rich, full believable characters I found myself identifying with and caring deeply about.

1990's: A Man in Full. In my opinion, similar to Bonfire in scope and style. Another satire of the politics of sex, money, power and race, this time focused on a self-styled ruler of his own domain in Atlanta.

2000's: I Am Charlotte Simmons. I expect this book will speak to many people around my age. The book came out in 2004 and tells the story of the culture and sexual politics of college life in the early 2000's. Despite being in his 70's when he wrote the book, his grasp of the diction, dress, music, and the issues facing young college students is stunning. The story is fantastic and seeing the world of my college years through Tom Wolfe's eyes and described by his words will be worth reading a couple more times.

Oh, and for those of you who like to wait for the movie? Add these to the que:
The Bonfire of the Vanities starring Tom Hanks
The Right Stuff with Ed Harris and Dennis Quaid
And a big one to look forward to: The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (2009) directed by Gus Van Sant and written by Dustin Black (Big Love). Oh baby, look out for that one!

1 comment:

Matt Stringer said...

Freakonomics, The Tipping Point, Blink, Gang Leader for A Day, Under a Banner of Heaven, The Fountainhead....all must reads