If you are an actor, you look to Brando or Olivier. A politician, if truth is your ally, Reagan or Churchill. High tech, Jobs or Gates. Business, Trump, or Rockefeller. As a writer, there are many examples to choose from, but in the modern world we look to the cutting edge, the men who forged New Journalism. Here is Tom Wolfe, who along with Hunter S. Thompson and to a lesser extent David Halberstam, made himself part of the story, gave us non-fiction that reads like a novel, and provide cutting edge social commentary.
Wolfe was a reporter, a long form magazine essayist, and cultural observer who first made sense of the 1960s, from a slightly conservative, pseudo-Southern point of view. He learned our language and wrote like we thought.
His The Right Stuff was what all writers strive for; history, drama, patriotism, and pure excitement, page after page-turning page!
The Bonfire of the Vanities had a way, like the sports columns of Jim Murray, of shining a light on the unimpressives of society without naming their names. It left its targets naked in the streets.
After Bonfire, the world waited with baited breath for Wolfe’s next work, which came in the form of 1998’s A Man in Full. The critics may not have gotten it. This book did not resonate as Bonfire had. But it was was a Best Seller. In this reviewer’s humble opinion, A Man in Full, like Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, is a monumental work that only those smart enough to understand it . . . understood.
It excoriates liberal society and stupidity without being obvious about it, but in between cutting line after cutting line, the knowing reader nods his head and says, “right on . . . so true . . . say it.”
The story is not the message. It tells the tale of divergent personalities seemingly without much in common who eventually find each other. There is the former white Georgia Tech superstar football legend, now a respected businessman, living off the legend; the black current Georgia tech star living off a world bound and determined to give him anything he wants – girls, cars, money, corruption – because he is a star, and also to appease latent, in-the-past prejudice. The old legend observes this stupidity with a jaundiced eye. Society run amock, priorities out of whack, a Wolfe specialty. Then we get the poor white fellow trying to make ends meet to support his family, the world’s-turned-upside-down case. In the 19th Century he was the black sharecropper. Now he is the blue collar white, probably the man attracted to the Tea Party, who wonders why so much immorality is allowed to not just exist, but to be rewarded. Every sin and horror committed by whites against blacks in the age of lynching is now completely turned around in slavish a here-have-this world by white football boosters who give-give-give to a dreadlocked black football phenom who cannot spell his name and despoils willing white girls seemingly happy to give up the last vestige of rightousness in their souls, in order to appease the injustices of their grandfathers. Only Wolfe tells this much better than I can. He gives it you in the best subversive manner.
It is the world in which society, the media, the intellectual elite love to create myths, such as the cutting edge all-knowing black man or family of so many commercials, put-upon while he calmly explains to the dingbat white the latest in cell phone technology, or smart money investing, or the latest in technological gadgetry; all apparently beyond the ability of most white minds to comprehend except for the smart black fellow who steers them in the correct direction. The kind of message that so many people observe and either say out loud, “Hey, that’s a lie,” or never think about, but understand this fact in the back of their minds, inculcating their choices in politics and consumerism.
Wolfe reaches those people who have this nagging suspicion somewhere when they observe the world around them and say, “Something is wrong here!”
But the novel’s message is in its study of stoicism, a mystic, ancient religion related to Christianity, and essentially the attitude of martyrs who were crucified and tortured in the name of the One True God.
This is Wolfe’s way of saying that while all this immorality and all these lies may indeed surround us, we still know the truth and the truth shall make us free. It is not necessary to explain the truth to others, to justify ourselves, to even make it popular. It is a manifest truth that the righteous know. Whether the unrightous know it is immaterial. God knows it, and that is all that matters. The world is just window dressing. The righteous look at the unrighteous and just pray for them. All their money and gifts of this world mean nothing, and the righteous man knows it. Thy righteous man suffers for his knowledge and his goodness. He does so without complaint, stoically.
Wolfe has chosen a subject he must surely have known would go over the heads of most except for . . . the righteous. We get it.
Whether anybody else gets it is . . . immaterial!
Causes Steven Travers Supports
Conservative, Christian, USC, American patriotism