Post by Michael OConnor
Wolfe will surely be best remembered for "The Right Stuff", which was
an outstanding book about the early years of the US space program.
I had a foot in the test-pilot culture he described, and I knew a few
of the guys who lived it in that way and at that time. He really did
get it right. The description of the funerals was particularly
I recently moved house and let go of a LOT of old crap. One of the
things I discarded was my naval officer's overcoat. Wolfe mentioned
this overcoat specifically in his description of the Navy pilots
attending a funeral in dress blues: "Few American men would ever own
anything as aristocratic as that overcoat." I thought of that phrase
every time I saw it hanging in the corner of my basement for the last
I thought his novels were less praiseworthy. He really captured a
cultural moment in "Bonfire of the Vanities" -- and he should win some
kind of big literary award for that title alone -- but ultimately
that's all it was: a moment. The characterizations and dialogue are
hilarious, but the novel as a whole has not stood the test of time the
way "The Right Stuff" and some of his other journalistic stuff has.
In fact, I thought "A Man in Full" was badly underrated. It's an
engaging story, its twists are not foreseeable, and it has an
I will have the good taste not to mention "I Am Charlotte Simmons."
Going back to the journalism stuff, I would advise anyone who wishes
to be literate in the subject of modern art and architecture -- where
by "modern" I mean second-half-of-the-20th-century -- to acquire and
read "From Bauhaus to Our House." And I also remember very much
enjoying some of the stuff in "Hooking Up," particularly the essay
where he leaves a smoking crater where New Yorker editor William Shawn
had been standing a moment before.
_+_ From the catapult of |If anyone objects to any statement I make, I am
_|70|___:)=}- J.D. Baldwin |quite prepared not only to retract it, but also
\ / ***@panix.com|to deny under oath that I ever made it.-T. Lehrer