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I Am Charlotte Simmons

Average Rating 4
( 95 )
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(39)

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(20)

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(12)

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(6)

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

Who Is Charlotte Simmons?

I thought this book was great, with Wolfe's descriptions of today's elite college life really hitting home. I went to an Ivy-league school, and I encountered the strange dichotomy in smart young people between their eagerness to learn and their sexual and mora...
I thought this book was great, with Wolfe's descriptions of today's elite college life really hitting home. I went to an Ivy-league school, and I encountered the strange dichotomy in smart young people between their eagerness to learn and their sexual and moral abandon. This theme has of course already been explored many times, perhaps most famously in Allan Bloom's Closing of the American Mind, where he talks about how young people in search of genuine self- knowledge are frustrated by today's highly politicized and morally relativistic universities. Charlotte seems to be the perfect foil here to demonstrate this: it is indeed ironic that Charlotte's family and mentor send her to Dupont, viewing it as a superior place of virtue when their own moral values are in reality much stronger. Her Momma's moral compass is precisely honed, and she is able to cut through Charlotte's half-lies and obfuscations sharply and precisely, while the faculty at Dupont are too befuddled with self- interest and self-importance to be able to do this. As a result, we are left wondering which world is better and more 'backwards' after all? But while I thought 'I Am Charlotte Simmons' is very successful in presenting these questions, I was confused by Charlotte character, particularly towards the end of the novel. The very last line of the book describes her as 'JoJo Johansen's girlfriend' as opposed to the 'Charlotte Simmons' of the title. Did she in the end lose her battle with the status-seekers of the university? She seems less to have struck some kind of balance than to still be genuinely confused. Perhaps with JoJo by her side, she has a compatriot who she can engage in genuine self-discovery with--and yet she realizes that JoJo is not one to discuss matters of the soul with. I confess that I felt frightened for Charlotte Simmons at the end, as if I were watching the last futile efforts of a flame struggling to survive in a place where the oxygen was rapidly depleting. I hope that some of Charlotte Simmons' traits of innocence, kindness, and genuine thirst for knowledge can survive the onslaught against them both by teachers and students, but I unfortunately doubt it.

posted by Anonymous on June 4, 2005

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Most Helpful Critical Review

1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

A somewhat good read.

The story starts off a little slow and ultimately picks up. You can predict what will happen. Parts of the story were captivating and realistic but there were also parts where I felt I was actually sitting in on a college class and wanted it all to just end. It was re...
The story starts off a little slow and ultimately picks up. You can predict what will happen. Parts of the story were captivating and realistic but there were also parts where I felt I was actually sitting in on a college class and wanted it all to just end. It was recommended to me, but I don't think I would recommend it to someone without reservations.

posted by 1273948 on June 2, 2009

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  • Posted April 29, 2009

    A greart read

    "I am Charlotte Simmons" was dismmissed by the critics at the time of its publication As far as I know, it still is. And, it is structured in the same manner as his two previous fictional novels, "The Bonfire of the Vanities" and "A Man in Full" - a hero (heroine in this case) who has achieved great success but through a combination of his own shortcomings, the "assistance" of disreputable people and "events", finds himself facing absolute and total personal failure. Then, when all appears lost, our hero finds the inner strength, the integrity and the set of fortuitous cicumstances that allows him to rise from the ashes and meet life on his own terms.

    That said, I think the critics, whoever they are, are wrong. If Bonfire is his opus work (fictional), then Charlotte is my favorite. Both her fall from grace and the depth of her dispair provide wonderful insight into the human condition. Soaring high on the fumes of her success - academic achievement, the attention of BMOC - to suddenly finding her world unraveling is highly recognizable to anyone with any sense of self. The moment she recognizes her "mistake" - when her 'bubble was burst' so to speak - and the resulting self-flagulation is literary goodness of some magnitude. Tom Wolfe at his best.

    I greatly enjoyed the read.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 4, 2005

    Who Is Charlotte Simmons?

    I thought this book was great, with Wolfe's descriptions of today's elite college life really hitting home. I went to an Ivy-league school, and I encountered the strange dichotomy in smart young people between their eagerness to learn and their sexual and moral abandon. This theme has of course already been explored many times, perhaps most famously in Allan Bloom's Closing of the American Mind, where he talks about how young people in search of genuine self- knowledge are frustrated by today's highly politicized and morally relativistic universities. Charlotte seems to be the perfect foil here to demonstrate this: it is indeed ironic that Charlotte's family and mentor send her to Dupont, viewing it as a superior place of virtue when their own moral values are in reality much stronger. Her Momma's moral compass is precisely honed, and she is able to cut through Charlotte's half-lies and obfuscations sharply and precisely, while the faculty at Dupont are too befuddled with self- interest and self-importance to be able to do this. As a result, we are left wondering which world is better and more 'backwards' after all? But while I thought 'I Am Charlotte Simmons' is very successful in presenting these questions, I was confused by Charlotte character, particularly towards the end of the novel. The very last line of the book describes her as 'JoJo Johansen's girlfriend' as opposed to the 'Charlotte Simmons' of the title. Did she in the end lose her battle with the status-seekers of the university? She seems less to have struck some kind of balance than to still be genuinely confused. Perhaps with JoJo by her side, she has a compatriot who she can engage in genuine self-discovery with--and yet she realizes that JoJo is not one to discuss matters of the soul with. I confess that I felt frightened for Charlotte Simmons at the end, as if I were watching the last futile efforts of a flame struggling to survive in a place where the oxygen was rapidly depleting. I hope that some of Charlotte Simmons' traits of innocence, kindness, and genuine thirst for knowledge can survive the onslaught against them both by teachers and students, but I unfortunately doubt it.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 19, 2013

    Garbage

    What a lot of puffy nonesense. I am so disappointed in this book. Mr. Wolfe has taken every potential negative experience of college life, inflated it by 300%, added an unnecessary amount of location description and f-bombs, and called it a novel. It makes me wonder if this was meant as a joke on the readers. I love books, preferring to read vs. watch TV, but not in the case of this trash. Don't waste your time.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 2, 2009

    A somewhat good read.

    The story starts off a little slow and ultimately picks up. You can predict what will happen. Parts of the story were captivating and realistic but there were also parts where I felt I was actually sitting in on a college class and wanted it all to just end. It was recommended to me, but I don't think I would recommend it to someone without reservations.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2006

    Poignant but exaggerated

    Tom Wolfe successfully captures the nature of human behavior in his novel. This novel isn't for the squeamish because he is frank when he writes about Charlotte and her innocence when she encounters the wild life of college. In some instances, she reminded me of myself just in her daily experiences, and even made me turn in discomfort sometimes because her thoughts were so familiar. I believe that many of the themes in the novel are universal, and that everyone can relate to her, whether they are rich, poor, young, or old. One thing I didn't like, however, was that Tom Wolfe exaggerates many of the stereotypes of college life. I am only an incoming freshman college student, so I don't really know how much of the college life in the novel is true or not, but I believe that Wolfe stretches a few points. For instance, he portrays the basketball players as 'dumb jocks' and the sorority girls as the superficial elite. Real life athletes and sorority girls and all students in general may possess some of these characteristics, but the characters in the novel didn't portray them realistically. Overall, I enjoyed the novel. I can take some of the lessons I've learned from the book about friendships and convictions and apply them, hopefully, when I go to college.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2006

    Brilliant

    This novel is not only brilliantly written, but is SO accurate a depiction of college life at a top university, that it is almost scary and unbelievable that it was written by an older man. Perhaps some older folks or even younger people who did not attend a top university like 'dupont' cannot relate or cannot possibly believe any of it- but, as someone who did attend a university like 'dupont', i can attest to the fact that Wolfe is, for lack of a better phrase, 'right on.' this is brilliant, and Tom Wolfe has proven himself yet again!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 18, 2006

    Wolfe is not Charlotte Simmons, or even close to it...

    First and foremost this was tough to get through. I read, read, read this book and it always felt like I got nowhere. I am 20 and in college and to be quite honest this was borderline pathetic. The part that continuesly let me down were his countless references to 'mons pubis', the fact that there was so much build up and the fall from glory seemed pretty melodramatic. I would agree with the comment that she is extremely naive. Another complaint I have was that he never described her appearance, from what I remember. I know that she has curly blonde hair and 'great calves'. Not even in the eyes of two men and one boy, Adam Gellin, did they describe her. A few questions that ran through my mind while reading this were,one in particular was if she was popular enough to date a frat boy and a college all star athlete why is it that her roommate Beverly looked down on her like she was like Betina. I could go on and on like Tom Wolfe did in this novel ( from the looks of it he was trying to rival the lenght of Don Quixote), but I would rather not.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 22, 2005

    Ridiculous

    After reading glowing reviews, I looked forward to reading this book. I can't even describe how much I disliked it, and resented the time I spent on it. This is SO obviously a book written by an elderly rich male trying to get into the head of a poor female college student that it's ridiculous. The language and situations are so contrived and out of touch with the true life of a modern student, it's almost as if his 'sources' were punking him.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 21, 2005

    I tried to like it ...

    I really wanted to like this book, but just couldn't do it. It took awhile to catch my interest, but I kept at it and eventually found it more engaging. I found the long lists of 'big' words distracting. I enjoy adding to my vocabulary but when I found myself having to look up several words, it lessened my enjoyment of the book. I also usually found those words really didn't add anything. The end seemed anticlimacic I found myself thinking, 'I stuck it out through the whole book for this?'

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 13, 2005

    Couldn't Relate

    I stuck with the book through the end, though I couldn't relate to Charlotte, and who could? Beautiful, brilliant, from a loving family, on full scholarship at an elite college. The way she treated Andrew Gellen made me realize how shallow she was: hardly a memorable character. Her naivete was simply not believable--no one with an IQ like hers could be so dim-witted. Andrew was the most interesting, fleshed-out character, but key things were left out, like who his parents were and how he came to be there. Such a simple thing it would have taken one paragraph. Maybe this book tried to do too much, getting into the heads of four or five different students with its multiple viewpoints and therefore spreading things too thin. It just didn't give me the experience I was looking for. If you want to read a college story, try one of the titles I've attached.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 9, 2005

    Not a real college student

    I am glad in reading some reviews that other people agreed that this book wasn't all that the reviews had made it out to be. Regardless of Charlotte's sheltered background, I find it hard to believe that she is so naive. Additionally, why does the author insist on describing things in anatomical terms and on using such uncharacteristically (for a college student) large words. Charlotte was melodramatic and shallow as were all of the characters. And never, never in real life would the story end in such a way.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 29, 2005

    Very Disappointed...Painful to get through...

    I read a few great reviews on this book b/4 purchasing, yet I had an extremely difficult time trying to get through it. I never got into the book. I thought there could've been SO much more depth to the story. Very disappointed and disinterested in reading other Thomas Wolfe books!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2005

    An inaccurate but good read

    This book was entertaining, but as a current college student, many of the images he portrays of 'typical' college students are completely exagerrated if not completely off. For anyone who knows anything about how an ACTUAL university functions, this can be a little bit of a ridiculous read, since you find yourself constantly rolling your eyes at the blatant exagerrations Wolfe repeatedly makes. However, I do give the book credit for being entertaining in it's own 'soap-opera' way.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 18, 2005

    A parody without the humor

    I guess it's a perfectly valid novel form i.e. a parody without the humor; just don't know what it is called. Every character in this book is an extreme stereotype. That makes for an entertaining read; but one with little or no relevance to the real world. Parents rest easy. For the majority of college students academics come first and the label on your jeans is not an issue.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 14, 2005

    Waste of Time

    This novel was absolutely terrible and I cannot possibly conceive how or why it garnered so much praise. The character development was abysmal, the plot structure was (if possible) worse, and the ending - a complete mockery of everything it means to be a 'novel.' Do not read - you will be HIGHLY disappointed.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 3, 2005

    Disappointing ending

    I usually love Tom Wolfe's books, but I found this one disappointing. He spends a lot of time developing the characters and then has them do inexplicable things. How can Charlotte say, 'I am Charlotte Simmons', and then be content to be defined as the basketball player's girlfriend? Not to mention that the relationship between Charlotte and Jojo was not well developed at the end. It seemed as if Mr. Wolfe was rushed to finish the book, or else an editor edited it to shreds. Too many questions remained at the end of the book. Also, he describes a middle-aged lawyer and his family in the middle of the book. After going into great detail about them, they just disappear. Why put them in at all? I hope Mr. Wolfe's next book is as good as 'Bonfire of the Vanities' or 'Man in Full'. I was very disappointed with this story.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 19, 2013

    I love Tom Wolfe's writing, and this book is no exception. I id

    I love Tom Wolfe's writing, and this book is no exception. I identified with Charlotte in many places, having been "put down" many times by snobs (whether sorority girls or not). I got so caught up in it that I couldn't put it down and enjoyed Mr. Wolfe's scathing interpretation of campus and administration politics.

    I really would have liked it if he had added a Epilogue telling us what happened to the four protagonists. For example -- Charlotte got straight A+s for her last seven semesters and graduated cum laude. JoJo went on to a stunning career with the New York Knicks and he and Charlotte married after her graduation. Adam received a Rhodes Scholarship and is now a contributor with MSNBC. Hoyt was last seen flipping burgers at McDonald's.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 2, 2013

    interesting but a bit boring

    ?.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2012

    classic Tom Wolfe

    I liked this book a lot, with all the characters complexities. It is not as compelling as A Man In Full, but I couldn't put it down.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 4, 2010

    Superb - do yourself a favor and read!!!!

    I only wish I had read this before my college experience!! Could not put it down!!

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