“Up until the tarantulas arrived late last year” – Tom Wolfe’s Newest/Oldest Fiction Debuted in Vanity Fair

Having written some 50 pages in one shot on just one of Tom Wolfe’s less-great essays, I probably have more than a little bit of sympathy for the man and his craft, regardless of how dreadfully tailored some of the scenes in his recent ‘Charlotte Simmons’ were. Yet in the most recent Vanity Fair, Wolfe contributes yet another installment in his chronicle of white collar woes that began with ‘The Bonfire of the Vanities.’

The piece itself is largely irrelevant – and this too, one supposes, ought to be a genuine problem – but the most troubling aspect of the entire affair is the “I’m just not trying anymore” bagginess of the title. After producing works called ‘The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby,’ ‘The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test,’ and, oh yeah, ‘The Bonfire of the Vanities,’ Wolfe’s piece is called, bluntly, ‘The Rich Have Feelings, Too.’ One almost prays that there’s something immensely freighted that might be derived from that comma placement. There isn’t. Worse still is the mind-boggling way that VF chooses to bill the piece in its URL header at the top of your browser. Most newspapers and magazines would be content to simply reiterate the title and author of the piece (“Tapping a Maple on a Cold Vermont Morning” by Kenneth Cosgrove, the end), but VF instead offers a kind of summary of the entire piece in general, something that might be a service had they been charged with minimizing the absurdity of something like ‘The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine Etc. Etc.’ But what Vanity Fair offers is:

“Tom Wolfe on the rich”

Really? With these five words, the magazine seems to inadvertently be parodying Wolfe’s own career trajectory. That’s it? I mean, what else could Wolfe possibly be writing about to begin with? By giving us five words that make Wolfe as usual sound like Wolfe as usual, it’s as though the editors at Vanity Fair really want us to consider whether this latest installment is worth reading.


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