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I Am Charlotte Simmons: A Novel Paperback – Bargain Price, August 11, 2005


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 752 pages
  • Publisher: Picador (August 11, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312424442
  • ASIN: B002KE45XC
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5.5 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (681 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #509,217 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description: Dupont University--the Olympian halls of learning housing the cream of America's youth, the roseate Gothic spires and manicured lawns suffused with tradition... Or so it appears to beautiful, brilliant Charlotte Simmons, a sheltered freshman from North Carolina. But Charlotte soon learns, to her mounting dismay, that for the uppercrust coeds of Dupont, sex, Cool, and kegs trump academic achievement every time.

As Charlotte encounters Dupont's privileged elite--her roommate, Beverly, a Groton-educated Brahmin in lusty pursuit of lacrosse players; Jojo Johanssen, the only white starting player on Dupont's godlike basketball team, whose position is threatened by a hotshot black freshman from the projects; the Young Turk of Saint Ray fraternity, Hoyt Thorpe, whose heady sense of entitlement and social domination is clinched by his accidental brawl with a bodyguard for the governor of California; and Adam Geller, one of the Millennial Mutants who run the university's "independent" newspaper and who consider themselves the last bastion of intellectual endeavor on the sex-crazed, jock-obsessed campus--she gains a new, revelatory sense of her own power, that of her difference and of her very innocence, but little does she realize that she will act as a catalyst in all of their lives. With his signature eye for detail, Tom Wolfe draws on extensive observation of campuses across the country to immortalize college life in the '00s. I Am Charlotte Simmons is the much-anticipated triumph of America's master chronicler.

Tom Wolfe Talks About I Am Charlotte Simmons
In I Am Charlotte Simmons, Tom Wolfe masterfully chronicles college sports, fraternities, keggers, coeds, and sex--all through the eyes of the titular Simmons, a bright and beautiful freshman at the fictional Dupont University. Listen to an Amazon.com exclusive audio clip of Wolfe talking about his new novel.

  • Listen to Tom Wolfe Talk About I Am Charlotte Simmons



    Tom Wolfe Timeline

    1931: Thomas Kennerly Wolfe, Jr. born in Richmond, VA, on March 2. Wolfe later attends Washington and Lee University (BA, English, 1951), and Yale University (Ph.D., American Studies, 1957).

    1956: Wolfe begins working as a reporter in Springfield, MA, Washington, D.C., then finally New York City, writing feature articles for major newspapers, as well as New York and Esquire magazines. Not satisfied with the conventions of newspaper reporting at the time, Wolfe experiments with using the techniques of fiction writing in his news articles. Wolfe's newspaper career spans a decade.

    1963: After being sent by Esquire to research a story about the custom car world in Southern California, Wolfe returns to New York with ideas, but no article. Upon telling his editor he cannot write it, the editor suggests he send his notes and someone else will. Wolfe stays up all night, types 49 pages, and turns it in the next morning. Later that day, the editor calls to tell Wolfe they are cutting the salutation off the top of the memorandum, printing the rest as-is. Thus, New Journalism was arguably born, whereby writing and storytelling techniques previously utilized only in fiction were radically applied to nonfiction. Straight reporting pieces now were free to include: the author's perceptions and experience, shifting perspectives, the use of jargon and slang, the reconstruction of events and conversations.

    1965: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux publish Wolfe's first collection of nonfiction stories displaying his newfound reporting techniques: The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby. The book cements Wolfe's place as a prominent stylist of the New Journalism movement.

    1968: The Pump House Gang and The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (No. 91 on National Review's 100 Best Nonfiction Books of the Twentieth Century) publish on the same day, and together provide an up-close portrait and exploration of the hippie culture of the 1960s (by following the novelist Ken Kesey and his entourage of LSD enthusiasts), and the cultural change occurring at a seminal point in U.S. social history.

    1970: Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers is published. This collection underscores racial divide in America, including an am using story about the socialites of New York City seeking out black liberation groups as guests, focusing on the conductor Leonard Bernstein's party with the Black Panthers in attendance at his Park Avenue duplex. (No. 35 on National Review's 100 Best Nonfiction Books of the Twentieth Century .)

    1976: Wolfe labels the 1970s "The Me Decade" in his collection of essays, Mauve Gloves & Madmen, Clutter & Vine. Wolfe illustrates the bookthroughout.

    1979: The Right Stuff is published. Depicting the status, structure, exploits, and ethics of daredevil pilots at the forefront of rocket and aircraft technology, as well as the beginnings of the space program and the pioneering NASA astronauts who were the first Americans to land on the moon, the book receives the National Book Award in 1980. An Academy Award-winning film is made from the book in 1983.

    1987: With publication of his first novel, The Bonfire of the Vanities--serialized in Rolling Stone magazine--Wolfe pens one of the bestselling and definitive novels of the 1980s, continuing his social criticism and ability to capture the lives and preoccupations of Americans, one generation at a time. Wolfe receives a record $5 million for movie rights to the novel and, despite the success of the book, the film fails at the box office.

    1998: A Man in Full, Wolfe's second novel, is published to mixed criticism, yet garners favor as a 1998 National Book Award Finalist. Here, Wolfe aims his sights on the Atlanta, GA, elite, trophy wives, and real estate developers, continuing to comment on racial issues and the chasm in socioeconomic status in America.

    2000: Hooking Up, a collection of essays, reviews, profiles, and the novella, Ambush at Fort Bragg, is published.

    2004: On November 9, Wolfe's third novel, I Am Charlotte Simmons, set at the fictional Dupont University, is published. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

  • From Publishers Weekly

    What New York City finance was to Wolfe in the 1980s and Southern real estate in the '90s, the college campus is in this sprawling, lurid novel: a flashpoint for cultural standards and the setting for a modern parable. At elite Dupont (a fictional school based on Wolfe's research at places like Stanford and Michigan), the author unspools a standard college story with a 21st-century twist—jocks, geeks, prudes and partiers are up to their usual exploits, only now with looser sexual mores and with the aid of cell phones. Wolfe begins, as he might say, with a "bango": two frat boys tangle with the bodyguard of a politician they've caught in a sex act. We then race through plots involving students' candy-colored interactions with each other and inside their own heads: Charlotte, a cipher and prodigy from a conservative Southern family whose initiation into dorm life Wolfe milks to much dramatic advantage; Jojo, a white basketball player struggling with race, academic guilt and job security; Hoyt, a BMOC frat boy with rage issues; Adam, a student reporter cowed by alpha males. As in Wolfe's other novels, characters typically fall into two categories: superior types felled by their own vanity and underdogs forced to rely on wiles. But what in Bonfire of the Vanities were powerful competing archetypes playing out cultural battles here seem simply thin and binary types. Wolfe's promising setup never leads to a deeper contemplation of race, sex or general hierarchies. Instead, there is a virtual recitation of facts, albeit colorful ones, with little social insight beyond the broadly obvious. (Athletes getting a free pass? The sheltered receiving rude awakenings?) Boasting casual sex and machismo-fueled violence, the novel seems intent on shocking, but little here will surprise even those well past their term-paper years. Wolfe's adrenalized prose remains on display—e.g., a basketball game seen from inside a player's head—and he weaves a story that comes alive with cinematic vividness. But, like a particular kind of survey course, readers are likely to breeze through these pages—yet find themselves with little to show for it.
    Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

    More About the Author

    Tom Wolfe is the author of more than a dozen books, among them such contemporary classics as The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, The Right Stuff, The Bonfire of the Vanities, and A Man in Full. A native of Richmond, Virginia, he earned his B.A. at Washington and Lee University and a Ph.D. in American studies at Yale. He lives in New York City.

    Customer Reviews

    3.4 out of 5 stars
    5 star
    193
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    3 star
    129
    2 star
    86
    1 star
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    See all 681 customer reviews
    Beyond the theme, the strong points of this book are Wolfe's excellent writing style, great dialogue and very entertaining scenes.
    Charles Sniadecki
    Many people unfamiliar not simply with higher education but the highest level of higher education still seem rather naive about how badly such places have degenerated.
    Dash Manchette
    Toward the end of the book, I had to begin skipping those parts because they were just too poorly written- they weren't likely at all.
    Crystal Masters Whittenton

    Most Helpful Customer Reviews

    101 of 111 people found the following review helpful By M. Goldner on November 14, 2004
    Format: Hardcover
    Poor Tom Wolfe. He writes infrequently, and readers apparently bring a lot of baggage to his work, based on the reviews above and on the universality of the subject he covers here.

    Whether or not you feel like Wolfe accurately captures college life in the 21st century, one thing is for sure: Wolfe writes with more flair and color than any of his contemporaries. Like his other work, I Am Charlotte Simmons is engrossing, very funny at times and a real page turner. Certainly I found a lot here that reminded me of my college days, and Wolfe does a great job of capturing the different elements of campus life, elements that largely transcend the specific jargon and events of any specific decade.

    Whereas I was highly disappointed with the end of A Man In Full (although I loved the rest of the book), I Am Charlotte Simmons has a truer, better conclusion, and is well worth the investment. If you're a fan of Tom Wolfe, you won't be disappointed. If you're not a fan of Tom Wolfe, and you like to read, you need to check him out. I'd probably start with The Right Stuff and Bonfire of the Vanities, but basically you can't go wrong.

    I Am Charlotte Simmons is a welcome addition to the Wolfe canon, and don't let the negative reviews here sway you; as someone else has noted, even bad Wolfe is better than 99% of everything else out there.
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    140 of 159 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Berger VINE VOICE on November 23, 2005
    Format: Paperback
    Tom Wolfe's subject matter here - college life - is thinner than in some of his other books. But his powers of perception are undiminished, and he still delivers satire with the best of them.

    Wolfe, who is proud of the amount of research he does, is known to have visited numerous campuses in his years of work on this book. In one interview he recounted fleeing a frat party with its participants out the back door as the police raided it. Now, that's research! So I assume his characters here are reasonably true to life.

    And what he finds is this: That despite drastic cultural changes, some aspects of college life persist because they are so firmly rooted in unchangeable human behavior. Jocks and other BMOCs (big men on campus) rule because they are the alpha males that the girls want. It's biology. The girls can't help themselves from wanting them, even less so in today's amoral climate where women are free to do whatever they want in college.

    Wolfe delivers the expected campus satire. (Actually, it hews so close to reality it may be unfair to call it "satire.") The bullying coach has his own power base and million-dollar advertising deals, and ridicules any player who actually wants to get an education. The angry Asian feminist intellectual perceives any heard remark as an insult against some victim group, to which she responds with a foul-mouthed gusto her male companions can only dream of matching. The aging radical professor still wages war against jocks and fascists. The sorority girls are slutty and drunken snobs totally preoccupied with status, parties and clothes. The frat boys are drunken morons preoccupied with sex, parties and sports. And so on.

    What many critics fail to perceive about Wolfe, though, is that he is essentially a Southern writer.
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    37 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Alesha N. Gates on April 12, 2006
    Format: Paperback
    This is not a book for your Sunday school group, or for anyone who wants to hold on to their misconceptions about what college is really about. It is offensive (at times) both in language and subject matter, revealing the author's depth of research and preparation for this novel.

    As a high school teacher, I have seen many "Charlottes"; those who are weary with jocks and party-people and want to find a truly intellectual "life of the mind." They leave my classroom believing that their freshman year of college will be just that - a new frontier filled with others like themselves: those who long to change the world simply through the power of thought. What they discover is much what Charlotte herself discovers: their secluded small town really was a microcosm, and all of the issues that existed there exist at their university, only now they are better-funded.

    It's been amusing to read the reviews and notice that you can almost identify which *Charlotte* crowd the reviewer fits into. Most of the angry ones would be *Adams* in my opinion, furiously claiming that Wolfe got it wrong and that not all college students are like these. They miss the point. They are angry about the ending; about Charlotte giving up her pursuit of a "life of the mind." Once again, they miss the point.

    In finding Jojo, Charlotte discovers her happy medium. He is tired of pretending to be stupid, and she is tired of pretending to be something she is not. They are a match, and Charlotte Simmons finds that she is (maybe) more Sparta than she would ever have cared to admit, and she shares much with the community of parents and friends that she left behind.
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    114 of 131 people found the following review helpful By Candace Siegle, Greedy Reader on December 1, 2004
    Format: Hardcover
    Flawed, yes, and perhaps not entirely convincing, "I Am Charlotte Simmons" is nonetheless an engrossing read with enough appealing characters, surprising turns of event, and occasional tart moments to keep your nose in the book for a good long while. Okay so it's not "Bonfire of the Vanities"-what is? This book goes down very easy, but take a minute to think about what goes on at Dupont University and you'll probably find "Charlotte" is a pretty disturbing book.

    You have to like Charlotte Simmons. Here she is, a girl from a rural high school, the success, the striver. With her grades, scores, and drive, she gets into all the top colleges in the country but chooses Dupont, the place she feels she will find her intellectual equals. This is not what Charlotte finds.

    The most moving character is basketball player Jojo Johanssen, another kid from a hardscrabble background who finds himself in hot water when he actually begins to like learning. The downside of this is that because Jojo has been playing top basketball since high school, he hasn't had much education since middle school. So, should he continue to take soft jock-friendly classes and pass, or risk his scholarship and athletic future by signing up for the philosophy classes he craves and failing?

    The goings-on at Dupont are all pretty tawdry, revolving entirely around sex and drinking. Charlotte wonders why people with combined SAT scores of 1550 can act this way. The arrogance and lack of common decency among the students is so overwhelming that some of the scenes are difficult to read. After four years at this school, what kind of person will she be?

    For entertainment, this novel is worth reading, as it is for the questions it poses about the people we will be turning the world over to. I recommend it for both reasons.
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