Two book reviews in two paragraphs
Tom Wolfe, I Am Charlotte Simmons.
Tom Wolfe jumps the shark with this one. Don't read it, especially if you have been to college: Wolfe's ear has gone all to tin when it comes to capturing the way people actually speak. The book is a complete mismatch between Wolfe's eye for social hierarchies and powerplays (which remains pretty good at times) and the subject matter, which is an overlong heard-it-all-before tale of lost innocence for one Charlotte Simmons, who goes to Dupont University and finds that it's not all laurels and academic robes. That students drink and have sex. Gasp, gasp, triple gasp. The book could be shortened by a good thirty pages if Wolfe were to excise the needless ellipses. The book depends upon stock characters, and even says as much: "Denny, whose actual first name was Demetrio, was like a caricature of a pizza parlor proprietor..." and Wolfe's right.
Ruth Stone, In the Next Galaxy.
This is good. Ruth Stone's eighty-three and conscious of the fact. I've spoken with poet friends about how one might engage the domestic while avoiding inanity. How do you address the ins and outs of living a by-all-rights standard life at home and render that life not with stock romantic regard - i.e. "Ahhh, home." In the first stanza of "At Eighty-three She Lives Alone," Stone clearly finds one answer:
Enclosure, steam-heated; a trial casket.
You are here; your name on a postal box;
entrance into another place like vapor.
No one knows you. No one speaks to you.
All of their cocks stare down their pant legs
at teh ground. Their cunts are blind. They
barely let you through the check-out line.
Have a nice day. Plastic or paper.
We're all going to die, in short, and the presence of the domestic forces Stone to break out with all the strength she has. The whole book is marked with this kind of desperate energy (although it's not always so... crass, some might say). I recommend it.