Charlotte Simmons, 17 Year Old College Academic, is Tom Wolfe’s Genius

Tom Wolfe, I am Charlotte Simmons

At 738 pages, Tom Wolfe’s I am Charlotte Simmons follows the tribulations, confusions, betrayal, failures, and successes of seventeen year old Charlotte Simmons. Wolfe also delves into the politics of fraternities, sports, bullying, racism, and poverty. And just like The Bonfire of the Vanities, Wolfe adeptly creates nearly two dozen characters that are easily remembered. He spends years researching his books to create a world that moves efficiently and realistically. His books are always page-turners, regardless of the topic. I read The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test years ago and honestly didn’t think I would like anything else by him. I was thrown off by what I thought was a conservative republican old man who wears flamboyant white suits. But everything he writes has an objectivity and if it’s possible, simultaneously an empathy. It seems contradictory but all of his characters have accountability and reasoning. His female characters are solid—some are strong and some are just as weak and pathetic as his men. Even after reading (and loving) The Bonfire of the Vanities, I doubted Wolfe’s ability to write about a teenage girl entering college. Happily, I was wrong. He wrote so well that Charlotte stuck with me when I wasn’t reading the book and will forever be with me. I don’t even know if I like Charlotte but I understood her.

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