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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Almost as good as the rest
I love Tom Wolfe's novels - whenever I need true and utter escapism, they never fail to deliver what I am looking for, and this book is no exception. Once again the author skillfully provides insight into the lives of a vivid and varied range of characters, all centring on Charlotte Simmons, the first year university student struggling to cope with the culture shock of...
Published on 15 May 2006 by Beca

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well-written tripe
I have read all of Tom Wolfe's works. He is one of those authors whose books I buy on faith. However this one was a let-down. Yes, he can write but the subject matter and the characterisation in this book were just too weak. There were some funny bits - the Japanese car called a "Bitsosushi" for example - but ultimately I was left with a sense of frustration because...
Published on 23 Feb 2006 by Roy Brookes


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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Almost as good as the rest, 15 May 2006
This review is from: I Am Charlotte Simmons (Paperback)
I love Tom Wolfe's novels - whenever I need true and utter escapism, they never fail to deliver what I am looking for, and this book is no exception. Once again the author skillfully provides insight into the lives of a vivid and varied range of characters, all centring on Charlotte Simmons, the first year university student struggling to cope with the culture shock of leaving behind small town life. At times the empathy I felt with Charlotte overwhelmed me and (much as I usually berate those who make statements like this) found myself marvelling that a male author could emulate such an intrinsically female viewpoint so effectively.

I did, however, feel marginally disappointed with the ending, which felt rushed and each character dealt with a little too easily. But don't let that put you off - this is well worth buying.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not his best, but still better than the rest, 15 Jun 2006
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This review is from: I Am Charlotte Simmons (Paperback)
This may not be Tom Wolfe's best book ever, but even when he's not firing on all pistons, his prose is more turbocharged than most novelists half his age. 'Charlotte Simmons' has received its share of brickbats, though you can't help but think that Wolfe has actually gone out and done something that other writers don't even bother with: he's actually done some legworks, like Dickens, Balzac and Trollope before him. Five stars.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well-written tripe, 23 Feb 2006
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Roy Brookes "roybrookes" (Hamburg, Germany) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: I Am Charlotte Simmons (Paperback)
I have read all of Tom Wolfe's works. He is one of those authors whose books I buy on faith. However this one was a let-down. Yes, he can write but the subject matter and the characterisation in this book were just too weak. There were some funny bits - the Japanese car called a "Bitsosushi" for example - but ultimately I was left with a sense of frustration because Mr Wolfe did not do enough with any of the themes and sub-themes he introduced. The characters were unsympathetic and as for the "heroine" - I wanted to shake her warmly by the throat - she was such a wimp. Her moping after her first sexual encounter drove me up the wall for several chapters. All in all, not Mr Wolfe's best book by a very long way. I hope he does better next time.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Falling flat, 2 Nov 2009
This review is from: I Am Charlotte Simmons (Paperback)
I've worshipped Wolfe for years. He is a master of stuttering, sparkling polemic, the poster-boy for the New Journalism (i.e. journalism that reads like a novel or short story) and pretty much unrivalled in that sphere. He has also been known to turn out a truly great satirical novel (Bonfire of the Vanities). But "I am..." reads... well, rather as you would expect a very long novel by an ageing satirical journalist to read, and I found it a disappointment. It feels like an early novel (say something by Fanny Burney) in that almost all of the characters are cardboard cutouts - entirely two-dimensional personifications of a particular character trait. The exception is Charlotte herself, and I can just about go along with her violently contradictory mixture of high-mindedness, resolution and fallibility - but oh my word she's unlikeable; as, indeed, is every single character. This, more than anything else, is what makes the whole thing such a drag -- it's simply too long a book, no matter how readable, to fight through if you can't care a rap about any one of the protagonists. On the purely technical side, it abounds in irritating Wolfean cliche ("loamy loins" being my personal least favourite example) while almost entirely lacking the fizzing, syntax-mangling exuberance of his earlier writing. And Wolfe's contention that American academia is nothing but a writhing snakepit of sex, substance abuse and cruelty would be fairly amusing in an article such as those in "Mauve Gloves and Madmen..." -- polemic is meant to be exaggerated and monotone, after all -- but in such a long novel it simply invites irritated rejection. After all, someone must occasionally do a little bit of work? The one potentially interesting character to me was Charlotte's best friend from home, who left for university with a similar small-town background and belief set, but who adapts to and revels in the freedoms of her new world in a much saner way than Charlotte -- I thought more could have been made of this contrast and the the fact that where Charlotte sees inescapable, incomprehensible depravity her friend sees freedom and choice from which you can take away exactly as much as you want.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ANOTHER TRIUMPH BY TOM WOLFE, 5 Nov 2004
By 
Gail Cooke (TX, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: I am Charlotte Simmons (Hardcover)
How does one describe the release of a new work by Tom Wolfe? It's an event, an eagerly awaited occasion and, in this case, a triumph. In preparation for his story of Charlotte Simmons Mr. Wolfe visited numerous campuses throughout the country, talking, listening, observing with his telling eye for nuance and detail. Of this experience he has said, "....I went to a lot of fraternity parties, and this is where age comes in. Most people had absolutely no idea who I was, I was just this old guy at the party. I was too old to be a drug enforcement agent, so I was not a threat. That worked very well...In my mind anyway this is both the story of a young woman in a difficult, new environment and also a depiction of the American University today."
Of course, that is precisely what this story is about, but no one could write it as has Mr. Wolfe. Charlotte leaves her small Blue Ridge Mountain town believing that as a freshman at Dupont University she will expand her mind, increase her mental acuity. She is both brilliant and beautiful. But rather than finding young people with similar lofty goals she meets wealthy, blase students much more interested in sex, beer, and drugs.
In an unfamiliar environment, longing to be accepted, Charlotte soon finds herself abandoning her lofty ideals in order to be a part of this intriguing new life. That's far from the end of her story, but you should read it from beginning to end in the words of Tom Wolfe.
Sure to be compared to Mr. Wolfe's groundbreaking "The Bonfire of the Vanities," "I Am Charlotte Simmons" is one more sterling achievement by one of America's foremost writers.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars It's no Bonfire of the Vanities., 22 May 2006
By 
MrShev "mrshev" (Gloucestershire, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: I Am Charlotte Simmons (Paperback)
I got this book purely on the basis of Tom Wolfe's previous work. Apart from A Man in Full I have liked everything that Wolfe has written because he writes with wit and intelligence without sacrificing good, old fashioned story telling.

This the story of Charlotte Simmons and her adventures in her first year at the fictional college of Dupont (roughly based on Stanford, I believe). She arrives from hicksville a talented over-achiever and arrives in Wasp ridden frat boy hell where everyone has their own agenda. It is a rough homily about Ivy League culture and belonging, success and failure and popularity versus academia.

I found the first few chapters to be pretty entertaining, and not being an American I find the look into American university to be interesting. But Charlotte is just about the most annoying person there is and that becomes an issue. In fact, most characters in this book are pretty unlikable.

There are some great scenes in this book (the sports stuff is great) but there is also so much unnecessary wordage. A good editor would have halved this book. I think Wolfe was trying the write The Great American Novel and tried to squeeze as much in as possible and rather than fleshing out the characters they just feel bloated. There are chapters which are almost transcipts of lectures that Charlotte attends. Lectures! It sometimes feels as if you are reading about the semester in real time...

I found this a real struggle to finish because it was just too big a book for such a simple story. Bonfire of the Vanities worked because Wolfe just laid it all out for you, warts and all - it was your choice whether to take the novel as a super melodrama, a novel about New York or a snapshot of the '80's. I am Charlotte Simmons fills those blanks in for you and because of that it fails to deliver much of anything.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I am.... not that impressed, 14 Dec 2006
This review is from: I Am Charlotte Simmons (Paperback)
There is no denying Tom Wolfe's capacity for writing deepy compelling fiction with modern relevance, but I would complain that his narrative structure is becoming a little formulaic. You could draw a graph to map the similaraties between 'Bonfire of the Vanities', 'Man in Full' and this, his tale of American college campus promiscuity and superficiality. Each draws together a disparate cast of narrators, many of whom veer towards cartoonish stereotype, towards a semi-farcical denouement. Whereas his use of multiple perspectives once seemed highly dynamic and mobile, it is starting to feel clumsy and laboured. From the pea-brained 'student-athlete' and the embittered nerd, to the left-wing professor and the ball-breaking basketball coach, it is all a bit too categoric, too neatly representative to be brilliant satire.

Wolfe, as proponent of New Journalism, is expert at identifying and exposing an area of modern cultural decline, but can be lazily sketchy when it comes to his protagonists. Only the central character, the eponymous Charlotte, is a genuine bundle of contradictions - detestably fickle to the final pages - one moment haughty and snobby, the next moment a desperate sycohpant. You may not like or identify with this characterisation, but more crucially you may find youself questioning its veracity.

Moreover, Wolfe's been praised by some for his ear (or eye?) for youth culture, but some of his fictional pop references are cringingly embarassing: 'Dr Dis' anyone? Similarly cringing is the pseudo-intellectual musings of Adam Gellin's 'Milennial Mutants', although this is probably intentional. Wolfe is a master of dialogue though, even if he feels compelled to translate it all in italics throughout the book. Nevertheless, this a highly entertaining read, not many authors can make 600 pages pass so quickly.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Shooting fish in a Barrel, 27 July 2014
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Just read 2 of Woolfie's books back-to-back, or should that be front-to-back-to-back. OMG I'm beginning to think like him. All his favourite targets are there - modern art ( Chagal and Malevich get a pasting - I have a Malevich poster on my wall from a London exhibition, political correctness, sexual mores (especially of the young), political posturing, nepotism and corruption, Puritan attitudes (which he seems to respect) and undercover racism. As with all thematic novels, the characters are bent to fit the target, though the main characters - Nestor Camacho and Charlotte Simmons are well drawn and provide the reader with a personal focus. Unfortunately to hit his prey the number of coincidences and absurdities begin to mount. But I forgave all that as the narration rollicked along - not forgetting his favourite and repeated vocabulary of sheerly, citizenry, gloaming (never heard that used outside a Scottish context i.e. Roamin in gloamin with my lassie by my side, When the sun etc.) and so on. In each case the last chapter is a cop-out and tidies up posse ends that would be better left loose and hanging. Nevertheless both are extremely good reads, as the fact that I had to stay up to 4am to finish one of them. With now go back and read my first and most enjoyable Tom Woolf novel, Bonfire of the Vanities. These two novels are definitely that the Woof canon, and none the worse for that.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars not for anyone under 65, 28 Aug 2013
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terence dooley (camelford, cornwall United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: I Am Charlotte Simmons (Paperback)
And not for any woman. Wolfe doesn't try to make his people real, they are vehicles for satire/prejudice. And it's so easy to inveigh against the youth when you're old, unattractive and envious, but surely a temptation to be resisted. Any woman in a Wolfe novel, to put it more decorously than he does, is arm candy, and she's in it for the money and fame. This is nonetheless a page-turner, a deplorable one.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not his best work, 6 Dec 2012
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This review is from: I am Charlotte Simmons (Hardcover)
About 1/2 way thru and getting a bit bored by it but will plough on. Lacks the insight of Bonfire or A man in full.
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I am Charlotte Simmons
I am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe (Hardcover - 11 Nov 2004)
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