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I am reading I am Charlotte Simmons
mipadi
post Oct 15 2009, 10:19 AM
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I started reading Tom Wolfe's I Am Charlotte Simmons a couple weeks ago, but I read pretty slowly so I'm only on chapter 5. Has anyone else read this? If so, what do you think of it? I'm going to be honest: it's the first thing I've read by Tom Wolfe, and...I expected better. My thoughts on the book thus far:
  • I don't like Tom Wolfe's style. His dialogue is too forced -- real people don't talk the way his characters do. He also uses ellipses way...too...often. This may be purposeful, a bit of irony to highlight the way kids and young adults talk, but if that's the case, he doesn't pull it off very well.
  • His characters are stock and one-dimensional. Charlotte Simmons: oh wow, a brainiac high school kid who never fit in -- haven't heard that one before. Oh, she has poor, country-folk parents who embarrass her around cultured city folk? That's...novel. Oh, the book has alcoholic drunk guys who mostly talk about sex and excrement? That's new, right? Oh, and dumb jocks -- the characters just keep getting more and more original. But seriously, so far, I don't feel a connection to any of the characters. The frat guys repulse me (and not in the good, literary, thoughtful kind of way); the dumb jocks are boring; the rich kids are bratty and uninspiring; and even Charlotte seems to spend more time convincing me she's smart, intellectual, and interesting than actually showing me that she is. This is surprising, since my college experience was much like Charlotte's -- I grew up in a rural town but attended an upper-class, whitebread, East Coast near-Ivy League university on a scholarship, and also had a sense of "not belonging" for most of my four years -- and yet...I don't really give a shit that she doesn't feel like she fits in. Plus I suspect that this is all a build-up to another cliché: like most girls in college, she'll probably just end up sleeping around a lot.
  • His prose is...boring. It seems like an experienced writer such as Tom Wolfe should have a more mature, developed style by now. I'm left wondering: are all his books written like this? He uses a lot of clichés, and his descriptions are bland. It feels like he put zero effort into the book. I feel like I'm reading a novel by Dan Brown, to be honest.
 
dosomethin888
post Oct 15 2009, 12:20 PM
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I just checked that book out from the library! My mom wanted me to read it.
 
mipadi
post Nov 3 2009, 05:20 PM
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I'm getting more into this book. From a storytelling perspective, it's a bit non-traditional, and has more of a journalistic feel; I think you have to keep this in mind when reading it, because it doesn't read quite like a traditional novel. Wolfe is more of a journalist than a novelist, of course, and he approached his book the way a journalist would -- he interviewed dozens of college students and even "embedded" himself in a frat party to get material for the book. It's mostly a critique of modern relationships and the associated college "hook-up" culture, and having graduated less than 2 years ago, I'm finding it more and more fascinating as I go along.

I still don't like any of the characters, though. The only character I sort of like is Charlotte, but even I think she's a bit whiny. I'm kind of digging her transformation, though -- not because I like her personality, but I think it's pretty standard for even the most introspective of students to become superficial during college, especially in a social context. I wish I really had a character to root for, though.
 
mipadi
post Nov 30 2009, 10:03 PM
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Almost done with this book. I have about 200 pages to go. I should've finished it on my combined 4-hour train ride home yesterday, but unfortunately I was stupid and accidentally left it at my girlfriend's house, so I'll have to wait to finish until she ships it up to me.
 

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