March 12, 2006

"This business of my having done the unthinkable and voted for George Bush..."

Tom Wolfe on George Bush:
Mr. Wolfe offers a personal incident as evidence of "what a fashion liberalism is." A reporter for the New York Times called him up to ask why George W. Bush was apparently a great fan of the "Charlotte Simmons" book. "I just assumed it was the dazzling quality of the writing," he says. In the course of the reporting, however, it came out that Mr. Wolfe had voted for the Bush ticket. "The reaction among the people I move among was really interesting. It was as if I had raised my hand and said, 'Oh, by the way, I forgot to tell you, I'm a child molester.'" For the sheer hilarity, he took to wearing an American flag pin, "and it was as if I was holding up a cross to werewolves."

George Bush's appeal, for Mr. Wolfe, was owing to his "great decisiveness and willingness to fight." But as to "this business of my having done the unthinkable and voted for George Bush, I would say, now look, I voted for George Bush but so did 62,040,609 other Americans. Now what does that make them? Of course, they want to say--'Fools like you!' . . . But then they catch themselves, 'Wait a minute, I can't go around saying that the majority of the American people are fools, idiots, bumblers, hicks.' So they just kind of dodge that question. And so many of them are so caught up in this kind of metropolitan intellectual atmosphere that they simply don't go across the Hudson River. They literally do not set foot in the United States. We live in New York in one of the two parenthesis states. They're usually called blue states--they're not blue states, the states on the coast. They're parenthesis states--the entire country lies in between."
That's just a couple paragraphs in an excellent piece on Tom Wolfe. Read the whole thing.

47 comments:

Gaius Arbo said...

Oddly, I just watched "The Right Stuff" based on Wolfe's excellent book.

Wade_Garrett said...

As much as I love Tom Wolfe (I have all of his novels and some of his non-fiction books and have seen him in person on a number of occasions) I'm getting a little tired of the "New York and California aren't really part of the United States" thing that he and millions of other people talk about. Its cliche and its inaccurate.

Its simply inaccurate to say that New York and California are different from "mainstream" American culture, and leave it at that. There isn't AN American culture; rather, there are several, if not many, American cultures. So he's really setting up a straw man there.

Furthermore, people from Texas are JUST as arrogant and clueless about the rest of the country as are people from California and New York. Rural southerners are the same way. Nobody can "see the whole board." Tom Wolfe has lives in the rural south and in NYC, and he's a very insightful observer of American culture, so I expected more out of him than this.

Craig said...

I've only read Charlotte Simmons, but if it is typical of his work, the accolades heaved upon Mr. Wolfe seem out of proportion to its quality.

Moreover, if his understanding of the American divided psyche is similar to his understanding of Durham college life, the simple reduction used to make a quick score with a tired point is not surprising.

Jacques Cuze said...

They literally do not set foot in the United States. We live in New York in one of the two parenthesis states. They're usually called blue states--they're not blue states, the states on the coast. They're parenthesis states--the entire country lies in between.

About 60,000,000 people live in California and New York. Approximate 300,000,000 people live in the United States. According to Tom Wolfe, about one person out of five literally does not live in the United States.

Literally?

This guy is considered a good writer? This guy is considered some sort of cultural observer?

Read the entire article. Read how carefully Wolfe dresses himself, and then read of his disapproval of fashion and fashion liberalism. Note how he won't discuss fashion conservatism or just plain fashion politics.

This is a guy who in the sixties was happy taking acid and in the noughts is upset with having to use computers. You listen to this guy?

Read of his statement about Bush vs. Kerry in 2004, but read how there is no followup question: so, are you happy with what you have bought?

I would say, now look, I voted for George Bush but so did 62,040,609 other Americans. Now what does that make them? Of course, they want to say--'Fools like you!' . . . But then they catch themselves, 'Wait a minute, I can't go around saying that the majority of the American people are fools, idiots, bumblers, hicks.'

Now we know that 1 out of 5 people live in the parenthesis states near the United States, but we know that just about 1 out of 2 people voted for Kerry. So where does Wolfe think those other 3 out of 10 unAmerican's live?

And puhleaze, Wolfe is saying that parenthesis state voters think Bush voters are fools and idiots, but he doesn't think that Bush voters say the same thing about Kerry voters? And apparently you don't think that either as you often mention how nasty nasty nasty liberals are to you.

Meanwhile Ann Coulter and Rush and Andrew Sullivan and Sean Hannity and Chimpy McBushitler and Birdy McBlasty LITERALLY call democrats traitors.

Law professor heal thyself. Your briefs are loaded.

Barry said...

Speaking as someone who grew up in the rural South and now lives in New York City (and has done so for 10 years), I think Tom Wolfe is actually spot-on.

Manhattan is not part of America. It's an island off the coast of America. And, at turns, I find that both incredibly endearing and absolutely infuriating.

Wickedpinto said...

I get thrown off a lot by reading these things. The "people I know" in the area I live are generaly individuals with incomplete highschool, and college careers, they are generaly single issue voters (abortion, military, crime) and they generaly don't think much about who they vote for as long as they believe WHO they are voting for represents their single issue.

The outsiders, among the people I know, are successfule graduates of a collegiate system, or attendee's of a university system after having served in the military, or the young years of their childrens lives, and they are generaly, single issue voters, and they don't think much about who they vote for other than that who they are voting for represents their single issue.

Where I'm from, the "people I know" are generaly democrat, insultingly democrat. Thats fine. But then when people who do give thought to several issues, and weigh their value and realize, "i'm a democrat, but in I will vote Bush (not republican, but BUSH!) this time because of this one or _maybe_ 2 issues" you become a traitor. The dem's really need to get over that.

Both you and Glenn have mentioned this trend, about how you are tagged as concervative, though all you do is support the war, or support SS reform, or support an idea, that is articulated best by one person in one party.

There are times when the right walks in lockstep, and those are their worst moments. But they don't throw their fellows on the fire the way the left is willing to. It's a shame that extremists, on either side are willing to destroy the idea of equal representation based exclusively on their partisan leanings.

As an Aside, I'm from the Chicago area, I worked with a guy who LOVED to talk politics, and one day I told him "the only man in the city that rubbernecks more than a crack dealer is a black republican talking about his vote" He laughed, but then said "I wouldn't be surprised if that guy got death threats." Thats the problem with our current political setup. Lets get more like you and glen and tom, and others to say the truth of things.

Captain Ned said...

Ya know, that famous New Yorker poster showing a Manhattanite's view of the rest of the world didn't just up and invent itself.

http://www.dankohn.com/archives/images
/20040126steinberg.gif

Ann Althouse said...

A city doesn't even have to literally be an island to see itself as an island apart from the real (and disdained) America. I know, I'm living on one of those islands. And the islanders enjoy thinking of themselves (ourselves) this way, I assure you. They (we) sell T-Shirts bragging "Madison is 10 square miles surrounded by reality."

chuck b. said...

Wolfe has some good things to say about other things too, including this: "Using the Internet is the modern form of knitting," he continues. "It's something to do with idle hands. When you knitted, though, you actually had something to show for it at the end.



So true.

Sigh.

Jacques Cuze said...


Bush approval rating drops to 37 percent
3/10/2006 10:11 AM
By: Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- President Bush's approval rating slumped to the lowest of his presidency, with more people worried he may not be up to the job.

The latest AP-Ipsos poll puts his overall job approval score at 37 percent.

Nearly 70 percent of those surveyed think the U.S. is on the wrong track, a 6 point jump since last month.

Reflecting the views of many, Connecticut retiree Margaret Campanelli said she's particularly not happy with Iraq or how things worked with Hurricane Katrina. Nearly four-in-five people think Iraq is headed toward civil war.

The survey reflects a scramble among Republicans facing reelection to distance themselves from Bush on issues ranging from spending to snooping.

Republican Sen. Sam Brownback, who's considered a potential candidate for president himself, says some people are thinking, "I wonder what other people can do."


It's getting awfully crowded on UnAmerica Manhattan these days. Fully 63% of UnAmericans are living there. 63% + Tom Wolfe and Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity of course. So make that 63% of UnAmerica plus three real Americans.

When are you folks coming to Margaret's house with your moving vans?

Sanjay said...

OK, now, firstly, I hoipe that nobody here is serious when they use Mr. Wolfe's p[olitical views to say he isn't (or I suppose is) a great writer. Look, we've had amazingly good writers in America who were communists and fascists, ulta left-wingers and ultra right-wingers (even John Dos Passos, who seems to've gone from one to the other). As far as I'm concerned, Wolfe is a hell of a writer. There's others I like better but, whatever. It appears one can have good, bad, or just plain nutty politics and write like a champ. Surely anyone reading this blog is clever enough to be aware of that.

Secondly, a question that has haunted me for years: is Tom Wolfe related to Thomas Wolfe of "Look Homeward" ? Does anyone know? They write pretty differently of course.

Johnny Nucleo said...

People who live on the Elite Islands Ann mentions believe themselves to be not only elite, but more importantly, cool. But one of the key ingredients of coolness is unselfconscious individualism. Thus, the irony is that on an Elite Island, being a Bush voter is inherently cooler than being a Bush hater.

For more on class and cool, check out Paul Fussell's hilarious but dead-on "Class".

Ann Althouse said...

Althousefan: I love that book.

Sanjay: There are difficult arguments that can win, and there are some important cases in American legal history where people have done the hard work to push for those arguments and have done a lot of good. The argument in this case actually did win in the lower court. It wasn't just nonsense.

bearbee said...

Not related according this site

Gaius Arbo said...

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Tout the poll numbers but fail to note the badly skewed sample. 51% to 39% Democrat?

http://www.ipsos-na.com/news/client/act_dsp_pdf.cfm?name=mr060310-1topline.pdf&id=3003

This poll is a bit more interesting. Only 10% of respondents have a great deal of confidence in Congress. The White House got 25%. Oh, and the Harris poll was not commissioned and paid for by someone. Like the Ipsos poll was.

http://www.harrisinteractive.com/harris_poll/index.asp?PID=646

Rasmussen has Bush at 43%. At least they aren't a financed poll.

Jacques Cuze said...

Okay Dr. Zaius, I concede the point. UnAmerica is not filled with 63% of oldAmerica, but only filled with 57% of oldAmerica.

hygate said...

"Meanwhile Ann Coulter and Rush and Andrew Sullivan and Sean Hannity and Chimpy McBushitler and Birdy McBlasty LITERALLY call democrats traitors."

Andrew Sullivan is literally calling democrats traitors? He voted for Kerry. I call shennanigans. I challenge quxxo to produce ONE quote from Andrew Sullivan or "Chimpy" or ,"Birdy", who, I take it, is Cheney calling anyone a traitor.

Jacques Cuze said...

Sullivan: The terrorists have done the rest. The middle part of the country - the great red zone that voted for Bush - is clearly ready for war. The decadent Left in its enclaves on the coasts is not dead - and may well mount what amounts to a fifth column.

I'll leave the other examples to you and your google.

Simon said...

Yes, apparently Bush is dead unpopular. If you take polls in New York and California, it's getting hard to find anyone who likes him!

(Isn't this all territory Bernie Goldberg covered a fwe years ago in Bias?)

Palladian said...

I'm starting to feel like a quantum computer- I know exactly what quxxo pasted into each thread without having to read it. As long as I'm careful not to observe what he actually pastes, the superposition of did/did not paste Zogby poll, excerpt from Mother Jones, failed attempt at mocking nicknames, etc. is maintained. Therefore he both did and did not paste anything in each thread and we can go about reading the other, worthwhile comments.

Or something.

Ernst Blofeld said...

One place Wolfe is dead right about is the state of American letters. Do we really need another novel about the tangled personal life of a professor of English at a small college?

Wolfe, to his credit, is out there in the big, brawling world.

Ernst Blofeld said...

BTW, I think Wolfe is a fantastic writer, too. Though I sometimes wish his copy of Gray's Anatomy would be confiscated.

Aspasia M. said...

Tom Wolfe's _I am Charlotte Simmons_ won the Literary Review Bad Sex in Fiction award.



And if the east coast and the west coast isn't part of America, does that mean those states get to secede and start a new nation called Blue-State-istan?

vbspurs said...

Pauline Kael, about Nixon's election in 1972:

"I don't get it. I don't know a single person who voted for him."

Now, me, I know lots of people who voted for Kerry, as well as lots who voted for Bush.

I'm fairly sure we all do.

And though I surmise that Ms. Kael knew boatloads more people than I have to date, that's the whole point of this thread about elite Manhattanites.

Plus ├ža change...

Cheers,
Victoria

Ernst Blofeld said...

Wolfe argues that the awarding committee completely missed the point of the sex scene, which was designed to be non-erotic.

"Wolfe defended his writing in an interview on Monday, saying he used words like "otorhinolaryngological" – which refers to the ears, nose and throat – on purpose, so the sex scenes would not be erotic."
...
"In this case, you can lead an English literary wannabe to irony but you can't make him get it."

The scene was designed to be sad and pathetic while still being accurate. Wolfe knows his way around a sentence well enough to know the effect of "otorhinolaryngological" on the reader.

bearbee said...

Geraldine Ferraro November 2004:

"You know what? Just let me make one point. You were talking about the map before. If indeed all those blue states all got together and seceded from the union, think what would be left for those red states, nothing. There would be no educational system. You would have nothing. What would be left to you? I mean, where is all of this talent in this country? It's on both sides, the Northeast corridor."

hygate said...

"Sullivan: The terrorists have done the rest. The middle part of the country - the great red zone that voted for Bush - is clearly ready for war. The decadent Left in its enclaves on the coasts is not dead - and may well mount what amounts to a fifth column.

I'll leave the other examples to you and your google."

So your stating that "decadant Left" equals all Democrats? I continue to call shenanigans, no quotes from the president or vice-president supporting your statement suggests that you can't find them.

knoxgirl said...

"Bonfire of the Vanities" has to be one of the best works of American fiction. "A Man in Full" was pretty great too.

Jacques Cuze said...

The decadent Left in its enclaves on the coasts....

So your stating that "decadant Left" equals all Democrats? I continue to call shenanigans, no quotes from the president or vice-president supporting your statement suggests that you can't find them.


Have you even read this thread before you post? This whole thread is a celebration of the Wolfe's claim that California and New York are "parenthesis" states and not actually part of real America.

Sullivan, years before Wolfe said exactly the same thing. I throw out the word decadent as just more smear tactics from Sullivan. What he said was that the left that lives in the coasts will mount a fifth column.

That is clearly a smear against democrats claiming they will be traitors.

It is so bad that even Sully backs away from it, and now claims he writes that it is not all of the decadent left, but just the decadent left universities.

And stop moving your own goal posts. You asked for one, and you don't even have the intellectual honesty to acknowlege that and try to move to the claim that none of it is real.

Feh troll, I am done with you. You will have to sharpen your arguments, you are making a non-argument, and frankly, I find that weird.

Al Maviva said...

I think Wolfe is spot on. I'm a conservative living in one of the blue-er parts of Maryland which has been infected by the same Partisanitis that affects most of D.C. I've gotten the child molester look for admitting I that I have in the past voted Republican, and for coming out of the closet and embracing the occasional conservative viewpoint in public. It's funny and predictable. A cocktail party conversation will turn to politics and you can bluff your way along for a couple minutes with head nodding and "uh-huh." Eventually, inevitably, the navel-gazing stops for a second, and somebody in the Circle of Self Reaffirmation looks up and says "but what do you think?" I know what is about to happen, so I always answer a bit sadly, "you really want to know?" The response is inevitably "of course," because died-in-the-wool liberals are naturally open-minded, and willing to prove it at the drop of a hat. So then I tell them what I think, in the politest and briefest terms possible. If you are going to badly breach social ettiquette, you might as well make it quick and surgical. Usually, this is followed by stunned silence, and "the look," as if I'd just crapped in the macaroni salad. Sometimes, a brave soul will ask a follow-up question. "Why?" I then try to briefly explain that my views are based on my temperament, my experiences, and in part on studying some of these social policy questions.

My honesty has relieved me of attending a lot of barbecues and cocktail parties, which bums my wife out a bit, but which doesn't bother me very much. I'd rather not be around people who take politics that seriously. Some political questions may be important enough to use as a basis for choosing friends, most aren't, I can't think of any we face right now in the U.S. that are. It's probably not a good idea to buddy up to people who can make such a mountain out of a ridiculously small and vaguely smelly little molehill.

bearing said...

I liked Charlotte Simmons (I admired it more for the critically-maligned style than the story), but you really have to read more than just that book to evaluate Wolfe.

I think The Right Stuff is the best, personally. Very entertaining and certainly a good way to get an idea of what makes Wolfe unique, as a writer (and especially as a journalist, which he purported to be when writing TRS, IIRC.

bearbee said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
bearbee said...

I am and have always been an independent but once felt more of a sympathy toward democratic party views until the reality of their hypocrisies dawned on me. Their intolerances are more pronounced just because of their constant, clattering declarations of just how good, liberal, open-minded, thoughtful, etc, etc, ad nauseum, they are....... *gag*gag*gag*puke*puke*puke*

Al Maviva - just curious... have you ever invited those same people to one of your cocktail parties/bbq's and with what results?

INMA30 said...

bearbee said...
Geraldine Ferraro November 2004:

"You know what? Just let me make one point. You were talking about the map before. If indeed all those blue states all got together and seceded from the union, think what would be left for those red states, nothing. There would be no educational system. You would have nothing. What would be left to you? I mean, where is all of this talent in this country? It's on both sides, the Northeast corridor."


Gerry may have been overstating her case a bit, but in general she is right. Innovation and intellectual capital continue to cluster and these clusters continue to grow predominately on the coasts. The cluster effect shows no signs of abating and likely will intensify much as cheap labor and "quality" of life will continue to empty the rust belt into the south.

I do have to chuckle about this view of New York as some sort of "elite" island. Hard to see the #1 train at 7:30 a.m. as some picture of elitism, but perhaps from the perspective of a gated community and private SUV it seems elite.

Al Maviva said...

Al Maviva - just curious... have you ever invited those same people to one of your cocktail parties/bbq's and with what results?

Yes, on occasion. But I don't really talk politics with any degree of stridence around guests in my house, and if any of the guests try it (including my conservative friends), I try to steer the conversation onto more civil grounds, or completely away from politics. I really don't care to get lectured about politics any more, and have no interest in trying to convert people to my way of thinking; and have no intention to let guest A inflict that on guest B. Once or twice I've had to read the riot act and explain that I think most politics is bu77s4it, before the guests figured it out. But generally Sainted Wife and I try to avoid inviting people who we perceive would be looking for a fight, or too far out of their comfort bubble.

We do have some close friends who are typical DC lawyer wonks from both sides of the political aisle, but they are polite and understand the house rules, and are generally on good behavior. It helps that we throw really good parties. Sometimes these folks do stick around until the wee hours and after many bottles of Bordeaux have been dispatched, we may talk politics; but it's not exactly good fodder for the shout shows.

Aspasia M. said...

Hmmmm...

cocktail parties

bottles of bordeaux

an author who dresses in an all-white suit

Is this how red-blooded American populists behave? OMG.

Short Charlotte Simmons:

Tom Wolfe grasps his pearls and faints when he realizes that some University students drink too much and have sex.


FYI: There are a bunch of Democrats who live in places like Youngstown, Ohio. They may drink wine and eat biscotti, but that's because our anscestors were Italian, and not because we're hootey tootey "wine experts".


Tom Wolfe is a poseur who is trying to sell himself as a populist.

Harkonnendog said...

"I've only read Charlotte Simmons, but if it is typical of his work, the accolades heaved upon Mr. Wolfe seem out of proportion to its quality."

You should read Bonfire of the Vanities, A Man in Full, The Right Stuff, ALL OF THEM.

He has his own style and such. He'll exagerate something to make it MORE true, MORE real, like an artist who screws with perspective to show the true nature of something.

Charlotte Simmons isn't his best imho, but those who dismiss it are really missing out.

Coco said...

"Furthermore, people from Texas are JUST as arrogant and clueless about the rest of the country as are people from California and New York. Rural southerners are the same way. Nobody can "see the whole board."

Excepts us salt of the earth midwesteners! :)

Actually, I live in Chicago. This is a hard-core democrat city - we don't vote for Replublicans for anything really. As much as New York is derided by those who enjoy doing such things, I can't imagine Chicago electing a Republican mayor, so we're probably a more appropriate target, In short - I guess we are the out-of-touch liberal elite. BUt the people I come in touch with every day hardly seem very elite...or liberal. Just plain old midwestern folks for the most part.
I never knew we had such power!

"So then I tell them what I think, in the politest and briefest terms possible. If you are going to badly breach social ettiquette, you might as well make it quick and surgical. Usually, this is followed by stunned silence, and "the look," as if I'd just crapped in the macaroni salad. Sometimes, a brave soul will ask a follow-up question. "Why?"

I've experienced this one before..many times actually. The answer that gets me in trouble is "I don't really have a particular church I attend." MIght as well be from Mars..and that's in liberal elite Chicago!

Coco said...

I think Tom Wolfe is the cat's pajamas. He appears to have the annoying trait of someone who has a different viewpoint within the orthodoxy of his likely social circles and thinks this somehow makes him superior. Bu that's fine with me since I don't socialize with him but think he's one of the best American writers and social observers of the past half-century. Mau-mauing the Flak Catchers....great suff.

Thorley Winston said...

I continue to call shenanigans, no quotes from the president or vice-president supporting your statement suggests that you can't find them.


Or rather that he just lied and made it up.

hygate said...

Have you even read this thread before you post? This whole thread is a celebration of the Wolfe's claim that California and New York are "parenthesis" states and not actually part of real America.

Well yes, I have read the thread and though I wouldn't call it a "celebration" (I would use the work discussion) I do find myself in the perplexing situation. I find that I agree with you. California and New York are indeed part of the real America.

Sullivan, years before Wolfe said exactly the same thing. I throw out the word decadent as just more smear tactics from Sullivan. What he said was that the left that lives in the coasts will mount a fifth column.

That is clearly a smear against democrats claiming they will be traitors.

It is so bad that even Sully backs away from it, and now claims he writes that it is not all of the decadent left, but just the decadent left universities.


That's a lot of verbiage. A more succinct way of saying it would be:

Yes, I believe the decadent left is synonymous with the Democratic Party.

Thanks for the confirmation.

And stop moving your own goal posts. You asked for one, and you don't even have the intellectual honesty to acknowlege that and try to move to the claim that none of it is real.

I apologize. Since I didn't really believe that you thought that decadent left is synonymous with all democrats I didn't realize I was moving the goalposts. I still don't think you can come up with any quotes from the president or vice-president calling all democrats traitors though.

Feh troll, I am done with you. You will have to sharpen your arguments, you are making a non-argument, and frankly, I find that weird.

If thinking that helps you make it through the night then more power to you. I believe I'm the one who should stop feeding the troll.

Ernst Blofeld said...

There's a lot more going on in I Am Charlotte Simmons than Wolfe being shocked about college students having sex.

AlaskaJack said...

I'm afraid Geoduck 2's book report on "I am Charlotte Simmons" gets an "F".

"Bad sex" is precisely one of Wolf's points.

Harkonnendog said...

"Chimpy McBushitler and Birdy McBlasty LITERALLY call democrats traitors."

Never happened. Ridiculous. If you really believe that there is something wrong with you.

Or are you some clever righty mocking the left???

Al Maviva said...

Is this how red-blooded American populists behave? OMG.

GeoDuck - go duck yourself. I'm not a populist. Populism is the opiate of the asses, and it's a sport the right and the left engage in to roughly equal extents. I'm a conservative, there's a big difference. Insofar as there is a political flaw in Wolfe's work, it's that he fails to skewer the hypocrisy of the conservative elites. But then, we have the mainstream media to do that, don't we?

And FWIW, Wolfe's Bonfire of the Vanities is a masterpiece. It's no Confederacy of Dunces, but it's close.

Aspasia M. said...

But then, we have the mainstream media to do that, don't we?

Hahahahhahahahahahahah!
Yeah, right. In my dreams.

(Tom Wolfe's statement about "real America" seemed awfully full of poseur populism. Especially when comming from a man who wears spats. Although I can almost admire him for his use of odd footwear.)

ok - Some people actually liked Charlotte Simmons.

Jordan Harkey said...

Wolfe is a great writer and a provocateur. He giggles at all this jibber jabber about his jest of having voted for Bush. It's the same thing as Von Trier saying he "sympathizes with Hitler". It's so clear that he is just f-ing with people for kicks and the fact that so many buy into it just makes his novel's themes that much more spot on.