The Corner

Tom Wolfe: What I Left Out

From a reader, noting that, in listing Tom Wolfe’s hits in a post below, I left one out:

Mr. Robinson,

How could you miss that anthem of the ‘60′s, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test?  While it no doubt took some liberties with people and events, that book gives a description of an underlying hippie culture that drove the thoughts and actions of an entire generation.  In ‘69 I (really) was 21 and I can recall drifting off into the scenes of that book like no other I have ever read. 

Great Interview, both in style and subject.

The answer is that I left it out of my list only for reasons of space.  But, like every book by Tom Wolfe, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test sort of lifted off the top of my head–it was so gloriously good and beautiful and true–and inserted into my brain an entirely new conception of what prose could do.  Mirror life itself!  Reproduce the weird warp of the Sixties in prose that had its own weird warp but that remained utterly cogent.  Wildly out of control but utterly under control.  That’s Wolfe.  Now flash forward two decades and you’ve got The Painted Word and From Our House to Bauhaus.  Cooler, more traditional prose, although a single paragraph by Wolfe still packs more sheer energy than entire volumes on art or architecture by anybody else.  And you realize, reading those two books, the Wolfe has done it again, quietly reinventing good old English exposition.  He brings it alive.  He mixes parody with argument.  And he stoops, just a little, bringing the lay audience with him–and letting the lay audience know that he wants them with him, that art and architecture should be accessible to pretty nearly anyone, and that that’s a big part of his point.

So there. 

And again, to watch the th Uncommon Knowledge interview with the man himself, click here.


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