recentpopularlog in

jerryking : tom_wolfe   3

Where is San Francisco’s Bonfire of the Vanities?
December 21, 2108 | | Financial Times | by Janan Ganesh.

Victor Hugo’s Paris. Tom Wolfe’s New York. Charles Dickens’s London. Whose San Francisco? Even a brief visit confirms its resemblance to these other cities at their most feverishly written-about. It has the same street-level squalor, the same inventive genius, the same jittery, barricaded rich.....Careering down the Bay Bridge in an Uber (founded in San Francisco), I gawp at the superior physical setting. The raw materials for a classic, a Les Misérables of the Tenderloin, are all here. And yet 18 years into a century that it has shaped, and almost 50 since the journalistic coinage of “Silicon Valley”, this place remains near-absent from literature. What fiction there is about modern San Francisco, including the first novel published on Medium, by former Google executive Jessica Powell, tends not to detain the Nobel committee.....The biggest story in American commerce and, when you think of tech’s displacing effects, in American society too, has been left to journalists and the occasional biopic to tell. The result is a story half-told. We have the numbers but not the anthropological nuance. Imagine trying to understand 1980s New York with stock indices and crime data, but without Bonfire of the Vanities. Except, an east-coast powerhouse would never suffer a literary snub. That a western one does suggests more about the writers, perhaps, than about the subject.....Seven of America’s 10 biggest cities are now west of the Mississippi River. .....Where San Francisco blends into the low-rise Anyplace of Santa Clara, you can see their point. But the city itself, with its layers of desperation and opulence, is Dickensian. It just lacks a Dickens, or even a lesser chronicler.....A planet-moulding capital of technology deserves its due, too. The stories are there, if writers can accept the western drift of their nation’s energies.
Bonfire_of_the_Vanities  fiction  Janan_Ganesh  literature  San_Francisco  Silicon_Valley  Tom_Wolfe  writers 
december 2018 by jerryking
Tom Wolfe, journalism’s great anti-elitist
Janan Ganesh MAY 18, 2018

Wolfe was the first anti-elitist in the modern style. Or at least, the first of real stature.

He exposed the credulity of the rich for artistic fads. He made fun of their recreational left-wingery,... their “radical chic”. Among the vanities that went into his bonfire was the idea of America as classless. At the risk of tainting him with politics, there was something Trumpian about his ability to define himself against Manhattan’s grandest burghers while living among them.

If all Wolfe did was lampoon the urban rich, it would have made for a sour body of work. But he did the inverse, too. He heroised the other kind of American: physical, duty-doing, heartland-based. His only uncynical book is his best. The Right Stuff, an extended prose poem to fighter pilots and astronauts, has all the velocity of its subject, even as it pauses to linger over these men, with their utilitarian hair cuts, their blend of arrogance and asceticism......Wolfe’s great coup was to sense before anyone else that counter-culture was becoming the culture. Its capture of universities, media and the arts amounted to a new establishment that deserved as much irreverent scrutiny as the old kind.....Before South Park, before Bill Burr, before PJ O’Rourke, there was Wolfe, more or less alone in his testing of liberal certainties, and happy to bear a certain amount of ostracism for it. .....But it says something of his importance that he changed fiction and non-fiction and yet neither achievement ranks as his highest. It is his prescience about elites, and the inevitability of a reaction against them, that defines his reputation.

One test of a writer’s influence is how often people quote them unknowingly. .....Wolfe scores better than anyone of his generation, what with “good ol’ boy” and the “right stuff” and “Mau-Mauing”. What sets him apart, though, is that millions also unknowingly think his thoughts. When? Whenever they resent the cloistered rich. Whenever they fear for free speech in a hyper-sensitive culture.

The mutation of these thoughts into a brute populism in western democracies cannot be pinned on Wolfe, who was civility incarnate. Like a good reporter, he wrote what he saw and left it to the world to interpret. What he saw were people who had wealth, refinement and so much of the wrong stuff.
anti-elitist  counter_culture  Janan_Ganesh  journalists  legacies  obituaries  Tom_Wolfe  tributes  writers  enfant_terrible  New_York_City  novels  social_classes  the_One_Percent  elitism  worldviews 
may 2018 by jerryking
The two faces of the 1 per cent
August 19, 2017 | Financial Times | Janan Ganesh.

On top of its book sales, film adaptation and third life as an opera, The Bonfire of the Vanities achieved a rare feat. It turned its author into a 56-year-old enfant terrible. Thirty years have passed since Tom Wolfe’s first novel imagined New York City as an opulent failed state, where millionaires are one wrong turn from barbarian mobs and race card-players on the make.
....Bonfire can be read as a book about two different kinds of elite. You might characterise them as the moneyed and the cultured. Or as private enterprise and public life.....there is a real split among urbanites, who are too often grouped together. It is one that has been lost in the negative obsession with the elite in recent years. Think of it as the difference between the two LSEs — the London Stock Exchange and the London School of Economics — or the stereotypical FT reader and the stereotypical FT writer.

When populists attack elites, they conflate people who work in the media, the arts, politics, academia and some areas of the law with entrepreneurs, investment bankers and internationally mobile corporate professionals. The Brexit campaign defined itself against high finance but also against human rights QCs and know-it-all actors — as if these fields were one.

I commit this elision in my own columns and I should know better. By dint of my job, I meet people in each world (plus a few supple characters who bestride both) and they are different. The public elite tend to the liberal left. The private elite are apolitical swing voters. Each side has little idea what the other lot does all day. They have different tastes, different idioms and they dominate different parts of their cities.

Even in London, a New York-Los Angeles-Washington hybrid in its centralisation of the public and the private, the two clans rub against each other (at the opera, at Arsenal’s stadium) without blending into one. Until Brexit put them on the same side, the cultural elite often viewed the moneyed as the enemy — mauling the skyline, pricing them out of Hampstead. Above all, each group has its own insecurity. The public elite nurse constant material worries. Despite their membership of the economic 1 per cent (something they will deny even as you show them the graphs) they fear for their foothold in expensive cities......The private elite worry that they are not very interesting. I have seen tycoons cringe in the presence of niche-interest authors. Some attempt late-career entries into public life, often through the publication of a political treatise or some involvement in the arts. Executives follow “thought leaders” who are less intelligent than they are. Politicians know the type: the loaded donor who fears to leave a campaign meeting in case a couple of young advisers, who do not earn a six-figure salary between them, mock his unoriginal contribution.

Other differences are surprising. The public elite talk a wonderful game about diversity and work in fields that have a better balance of women and men. But the private elite tend to work among more races and nationalities: some trading floors look like 1980s Benetton commercials. The same seems true of social background. I would advise a young graduate without relatives in high places to choose corporate life over the media....Creativity is more precious than wealth. There is a reason why the most fashionable members’ clubs admit freelance graphic designers, who live hand-to-mouth, and black ball superstar bankers. In a sense, Fallow’s total victory over McCoy is classic Wolfe: it lacks the nuance of great art, but it gets at a truth.
Bonfire_of_the_Vanities  Tom_Wolfe  fiction  writers  enfant_terrible  New_York_City  novels  the_One_Percent  elitism  Janan_Ganesh  insecurities  hand-to-mouth  LSE  superstars 
august 2017 by jerryking

Copy this bookmark:





to read