I am Charlotte Simmons, by Tom Wolfe

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For my summer epic, I dove into I am Charlotte Simmons, the 2004 university novel by Tom Wolfe. It isn’t really an epic, but since it is 25 discs long, I decided that it counts.

Charlotte Simmons is the valedictorian of her rural North Carolina high school and is off to the fictional DuPont College.  It is meant to be Ivy League-ish, but with a national champion basketball team.  Wolfe maintains that it is not modeled after any one school.

What Charlotte sees at DuPont is a host of lascivious New England private-school brats that think themselves sophisticated, but just like to look down on everyone else.  She thinks of them as the “cashmere” set.  She starts dating an older, particularly popular frat boy.  It seems that he thought of her as a sexual challenge and she thought of him as a brilliant way to make the cashmere set jealous.

You can imagine how that turned out.

I am sorry to say I never came to have any empathy for Charlotte.   Or any other character except for, of all people, the basketball star embroiled in a sub-plot involving plagiarism.  I spent the entire novel trying to figure out why I liked him.  Then Charlotte told me – he was guileless and without irony.

So, except for Mr. Basketball star, the rest of the jocks were rather cliche, as were the frat boys and sorority girls.  The nerds reminded me of the Facebook crowd from The Social Network.

The one question that ran through my mind the entire time I was listening (Dylan Baker, the guy reading in the audio version, was great) was this:

How is it the WB hasn’t discovered this thing yet?

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