The Eclectic Sandlapping Palmetto Tree

The NYT today has a story keyed to the 20th anniversary of Bonfire of the Vanities, from the perspective of “how has New York changed since then?”

Thinking back on the way he wrote about the Big Apple, it occurs to me that if Wolfe would really like to write about bizarre, rococo foibles in a sociopolitical context, he should come to South Carolina. He’s done New York; he’s done Atlanta; now he’s doing Miami. All have been done to death. He should come to the home of neo-Confederates, Green Diamond, Bob Jones University, Jake (it’s pronounced “Jakie,” Mr. Wolfe) Knotts, an antebellum form of government, the nation’s most libertarian governor, Andre Bauer, Thomas Ravenel, John Land, Glenn McConnell (arguably the most powerful man in the state, Mr. Wolfe — pictured at right) and the Hunley — and, just a bit into our recent past, Lee Atwater, Strom Thurmond, Fritz Hollings, Jack Lindsay, Ron Cobb, Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker… by comparison, even Rudy Giuliani seems boring.

It would be like Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test without the acid (who would need it?). Actually, come to think of that, I’d much rather see him write about us in his nonfiction mode — partly because the reality here is weirder than any fiction, and partly because I just prefer his nonfiction works, particularly Acid Test and The Right Stuff.

You know why Wolfe disappoints me as a fiction writer? He has no love for any of his characters. Think about it — is there a sympathetic character anywhere in Bonfire or the Atlanta book? It’s a very depressing view of humanity. By contrast, his detached-but-intimate style of journalism makes real people come into view in a way that is far more engaging.

4 thoughts on “The Eclectic Sandlapping Palmetto Tree

  1. weldon VII

    Brad, your “The Right Stuff” link above takes me to the wrong stuff: a Wikipedia page that does not mention “The Right Stuff.”
    Were that your intent, you’re waxing devious.

  2. weldon VII

    Yeah, Brad, I think Tom Wolfe should come make us look like the idiots you think we are.
    You say “the reality here is weirder than any fiction,” but what makes you think life ANYWHERE makes more sense?
    Dennis Kucinich, for crying out loud, actually holds elective office somewhere.
    And, heck, in Oregon, it’s illegal to pump your own gasoline.
    From what I understand, there are some states where same-sex couples can actually marry.
    And in Arizona, it’s against the law to import a whale.
    So let Wolfe take a bite out of a bigger market before we invite him to expose our backsides in verbal technicolor.

  3. Jim Hesson

    Excellent point about SC politics. Far and away the strangest political landscape in the US. I’m from the North East (NY and NJ) but lived, till recently, in Columbia the last 15 years. I think that SC politics is kind of like watching the Sopranos, but not as funny.


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