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After more than 20 years as a journalist and essayist, in 1987 Tom Wolfe debuted as a novelist with this splendid satire of 1980s New York life. Until "American Psycho" came along, it was the definitive word on the subject. Sherman McCoy is a self-styled Master of the Universe, a rich young Wall Street whizzkid. Driving home with his mistress, they become lost in The Bronx and accidentally run over a black kid. They don't stop to check how he is. The novel documents the unravelling of Sherman's life in the aftermath of the event. Wolfe clearly fancied himself as a Dickens of '80s New York. In this novel, he tries to capture society from the lowest to the highest, the machinations of a sometimes absurd law machine and hold up a mirror to his contemporary city in characters such as black activist Reverend Bacon, based on the larger than life preacher Reverend Al Sharpton and journalist Peter Fallow, widely assumed to be a thinly disguised portrait of Christopher Hitchens. It is getting on for 20 years since I read it, but I remember I absolutely loved it. Part of me wonders how it has aged, but at the time it seemed smart, savage and stylish.
America's 'peerless observer [and] fearless satirist' takes on the university - from jocks to mutants, dormcest to tailgating - plus race, class, sex, and basketball. 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 freshman from Sparta, North Carolina (pop. 900), who has come here on full scholarship in full flight from her tobacco-chewing, beer-swilling high school classmates. But Charlotte soon learns, to her mounting dismay, that Dupont is closer in spirit to Sodom than to Athens, and that sex, crank, and kegs trump academic achievement every time. As Charlotte encounters Dupont's privileged elite - her roommate, Beverly, a fleshy, Groton-educated Brahmin in lusty pursuit of lacrosse players; Jayjay 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 Millennium Mutants who run the university's 'independent' newspaper and who consider themselves the last bastion of intellectual endeavour 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. <iframe width="180" height="180" scrolling="no" frameborder=0 src="http://rcm-uk.amazon.co.uk/e/cm?t=bookgrouponli-21&l=st1&search=charlotte%20simmons%20tom%20wolfe&mode=books-uk&p=33&o=2&f=ifr&bg1=C6EFF7&lc1=082984<1=_blank"> <table border='0' cellpadding='0' cellspacing='0' width='468' height='362'><tr><td><A HREF='http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/redirect-home/bookgrouponli-21' target=_blank ><img src="http://images-eu.amazon.com/images/G/02/associates/recommends/default_180x180.gif" width=180 height=180 border="0" access=regular></a></td></tr></table></iframe>