Thinking About Charlotte Simmons

I’ve gone this far without mentioning what I’m currently reading, which is surprising since I’m usually working on at least two books at a time. What can I say? I bore easily so I need variety. In books. Don’t go reading into things please. Unless they are books. Sheesh.

I picked up I am Charlotte Simmons after reading that the main character is a small town girl who goes off to a prestigious university and is shocked by what she finds. At that point, I wondered if I had been Charlotte Simmons 10+ years ago.

I’ve also liked Tom Wolfe ever since a “Modern Southern Writers” seminar I had in college where we also tackled William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, and some works of our own humble professor. I have kind of a love-hate relationship with southern literature though. I have to admit that sometimes I feel (a lot) left out of southern fiction, but I mostly enjoy it. And Tom Wolfe is a master–so much so that he doesn’t even need the name of his book on its cover. That’s big people. So I gave this one a go.

Now I’ve read the first 100 pages or so of Charlotte, and I’m pretty sure that the answer is no, I am not nor ever was Charlotte Simmons. I do recognize some of her acquaintances, though, and Wolfe makes observations of prestigious university life that are worth examining. So I’ll continue. Well, plus I never abandon a book. Can someone help me with this disease?

Overall, I’m not sure if I love or hate this one yet, but I have another 500 pages to figure it out. For those who have read it, what do you think? And what did you think after 100 pages?

Eventually I’ll do up one of those Book List thingees, if for nothing else to keep track of what I’ve read, but for right now, I’m also looking for suggestions.

So hook me up. What are you reading?


[tags]books, i am charlotte simmons, tom wolfe[/tags]

11 Beans of Wisdom to “Thinking About Charlotte Simmons”
  1. Ms Adventures in Italy

    I read Charlotte Simmons and while I wasn’t as naive (maybe) as her or from as small a town, I had some similar experiences so I found myself, if not identifying, “reliving” her story as well as mixed with my own memories fleshing out the campus, the people, etc.

    I enjoyed it but I wouldn’t be able to read it twice, because my freshman year was a huge change for me emotionally.

    That was my first Tom Wolfe book so I’ll have to check out the other you mentioned.

  2. alexmom

    I’m reading a trilogy by Italian-Canadian, Nino Ricci. *Lives of the Saints* is the story of provincial 1940’s Italian hilltown and the scandlous behavior of a woman who’s husband has emmigrated to Canada. *In a Glass House* is the continuation of the story in Canada during the 50’s-60’s. *Where She Has Gone* is the third title and I’m in the middle of it now. Somehow, I lost my copy of the second book, so I had to begin the third withoutfinishing the second. An incredibly well written, complex study of the cultural, behaviorial and emotional nature of Italians who emmigrated to North America. You’ll recognize loads of behavior, attitudes, superstitions, etc.

  3. Christine

    I haven’t read Charlotte. Currently I’m reading Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Suskind. And even though I’ll finish it within the week, it’s easy enough, I just don’t love it. Of course now I have the more exciting prospects of reading for courses (boo!) so books will be put on hold again.

  4. The Other Girl

    I keep picking up Charlotte Simmons at the bookstore and then setting it down again. The story sounds interesting, but the only Tom Wolfe I’ve read is The Bonfire of the Vanities, which I disliked a lot. I don’t know if he’s always like that, but in that book Wolfe really needed to show his readers that he was smarter than his characters. If someone said or did something stupid, he’d point it out and then explain so thoroughly why it was stupid — as if we couldn’t figure it out for ourselves — that I started to feel insulted. I wanted to write him a “Deer Mr. Wolf, I lik you’re books alot i read some in colledge.”

    I’m not really reading anything right now and I never did finish that damn Hotel Bemelmans. It’s looking like a good candidate for abandonment.

  5. stacy

    I totally do that too! Usually I have 2 or 3 books going at the same time. hehe I’ve wanted to read Charlotte Simmons so I will be interested in what you think.

    Currently, I’m reading “eat, pray, love” by Elizabeth Gilbert; “In the Company of the Courtesan” by Susan Dunant and just finished “Kleopatra” by Karen Essex. I’m liking the first, haven’t read enough of the 2nd to form an opinion, and loved the 3rd. Can’t wait to get the sequel “Pharoah” – was a very interesting take of Kleopatra’s childhood (fiction based on research).

  6. -R-

    I just started a book called “Cape May.” I like it so far, but I’m only about 60 pages in. I just finished Isabelle and [Other Character’s Name that I Forgot] which was fabulous. I think the author’s last name was Stout. I am not so good with titles!

  7. Shan

    When I’m working I have two books on the go. One for work, one for home.

    I also can’t stop reading a book once I start. Mike bought me a book for my birthday last year I think. Anyway he picked it simply because it had an “Oprah Book Club-esque” looking cover. It was the most horrendous thing I had ever read, but I read the whole thing. Complained about how bad it was the whole time too.

    I need help too, maybe we could start a support group.

  8. sognatrice

    Great suggestions, thanks!

    Ms A, I’m finding that I’m reliving the experience too, remembering things that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise; actually it’s making me think I should read a bit, write a bit of my own experience as it comes to mind before I forget everything. Old journals only recorded so much!

    Alexmom, those sound great. My Italian-themed book right now is D.H. Lawrence and Italy, a collection of 3 of his books on Italy. I’m not very far along yet though.

    Christine, I admire the fact that you’re reading anything at all while on break. I don’t think I read a book for fun outside of the summer in those 3 years of hell, er, higher learning.

    TOG, yeah, I didn’t like Bonfires either. I’m not really fond of the writing in this book either at this point…lots of telling, not showing IMHO. Of course, I’m reading more at this point for the story, so I’m letting a lot of the technique slide. I guess.

    Stacy, I have been meaning to get “Eat, Pray, Love” forever! That’s next on my list. Thanks for the other suggestions too.

    R, I’ve found I’m the same way with names and authors these days. I used to remember everything like that. Seems my brain is making room for more important stuff, I guess. I hope.

    Shan, too funny that you complained the whole way through the book! I do that too, which leads to cries of “Um, why don’t you just STOP reading?” They don’t understand. They never will. The first step is admitting we have a problem though. Are we even there yet?

  9. nyc/caribbean ragazza

    During the break I read Angel and Demons by Dan Brown. Basically the prequel to the Da Vinci Code, nuff said.

    I also read On Beauty by Zadie Smith. Still trying to process how I feel about it. I thought the writing was beautiful but some of her characters did not ring true to me. I’m going to try and post it about later in the week.

    I just started The Brambles by Eliza Minot. I’m a fan of her sister’s work and am enjoying this book as well.

  10. Michellanea

    I read it but I don’t think it was Tom Wolfe at his best, though having said that, I’m not always a Tom Wolfe fan. It was nice quick read but I kept thinking “This girl CAN’T be that naive in this day and age.” I know she grew up poor in the sticks, but she would have had to have used the Internet or seen a reality show or two at some point. Sometimes the dialogue was slightly off, slightly forced as if he were trying too hard to speak in frat-boy-ese. I’d recommend it as a beach read and not necessarily as literature.

  11. laxlaw

    Haven’t read any Tom Wolfe, but I may try after sampling a few pages on Amazon.

    The best book I’ve read recently is My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picolut (?). I’ve read some of her things before but this book was especially moving. I wasn’t as thrilled with another one of hers, The Pact.

    Just finished The Da Vinci Code – yes, I am the last person on earth to read it. It’s hard to decide whether I enjoyed it or not – I’m always a little disappointed after something so hyped. But, I found the historical “facts” in it fascinating.

    I’m about to start Jennifer Weiner’s In Her Shoes (without having seen the movie). I liked the first one – Good in Bed – although I found it to be uneven.

    Even I’m getting sick of reading my own comments ….

Michelle FabioMichelle Fabio is an American attorney-turned-freelance writer living in her family's ancestral village in Calabria, Italy and savoring simplicity one sip at a time. 

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