Customer Reviews for

I Am Charlotte Simmons

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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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  • 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 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 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 February 2, 2013

    interesting but a bit boring

    ?.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 24, 2008

    go,go, jojo!

    This book was interesting in certain parts of the novel. It's a little lengthy for me, but still worth to read. Jojo Johannsen is my favorite character in the book because of his predetermination to stay on the basketball team. I didn't like Beverly in the book because she constantly lowered her self worth with the popular lacrosse players and was jealous of Charlotte's innocence.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 31, 2006

    good but...

    The book was good but it was a bit too lengthy. For example, some of the parts of Charlotte's depression could have been cut a bit shorter. I also didn't particularly care for the ending. But as a college student I would say that Wolfe has made an accurate account of college life today.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 8, 2006

    Could Dupont Be Duke?

    Reading this book reminded me of days long ago in the late 60s when I was student at the University of NC Chapel Hill. Raucous frat boys, graduate student 'teachers', almighty basketball. Unfortunately, Tom Wolfe writes an absolutely accurate account of campus life then and now. Dupont University seems to bear a close resemblance to Duke University!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 25, 2006

    wide of the mark

    The question how many colleges have beer busts and dumb jocks is of minor importance in considering this book. The problem is that Tom Wolfe has always prided himself on putting his finger on the pulse of our society, and he has missed it here. Beer parties and jocks have been around for ages and have done little harm to students or to society. In fact, some of those jocks become movie stars (e.g. John Wayne) or politicians (e.g. Gerald Ford). The fact is that colleges and universities in this country are in serious trouble, and it isn¿t because of parties or jocks. It is because professors in many departments (specifically Humanities, Studies, Art, and Education) have a political agenda, and some of that agenda has harmful social and political consequences and some of it even has detrimental effects on the cognitive capabilities of students. This is what this novel should have been about. To touch on this problem obliquely by couching it in one character (and an Asian character at that!) is a howler. (For a novel that does deal with this issue head-on, read The Rape of Alma Mater. Although that novel is primarily from the point of view of various faculty members, there are three students who play important roles.) As to the writing, having Charlotte change may be realistic (depending on what kind of character you want Charlotte to be), but that is irrelevant. This is not a nonfiction description book. This is a novel. Charlotte is our conductor, our partner, our point of view, as we travel through the story. To have her become a different person (a person we no longer want to have as a friend) leaves us without a place to stand. We are abandoned, stranded. We either stop reading or scan. The book is really an ensemble piece. Only a fourth focuses on Charlotte, the rest on the other characters. Problem is that the other characters are not that interesting and certainly not appealing. Tom Wolfe is at his best in the chapters dealing with the student newspaper. The writing there is genuine and involving, without the detached distance of the other chapters. Taking into account the prologue and the sections on neuroscience along with the particulars of this rather peculiar story, it seems clear that the author is trying to prove that any woman will have sex with a hyper testosterone male if the right chain of circumstances pushes the appropriate brain buttons. This explains the microscopic detail the book goes into in devoting literally hundreds of pages to the seduction of Charlotte (which cannot be justified on any literary grounds). However, this is simply the S-R paradigm on a physiological level, and in spite of decades of experiments, the S-R efforts did not succeed too well on higher-order feedback systems (such as humans) except in rare cases. The author programs his model with extreme care, but in several places it strains credibility. True, some ¿nice¿ and pretty girls do hop into bed with gorillas, but many more do not. Typically, even girls who feel lonely and feel that sexual reassurance is the answer, can easily find more appropriate companions. Setting up a false disjunction between Adam and Hoyt won¿t do. Let¿s hope this book was intended as a morality play. Otherwise, the depressing and repulsive story and the incredibly slow pace with which it is told would be too much.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 21, 2006

    good read but too long

    An extremely real world and witty novel. Some of Wolfe's characters, events, and themes are dead on to teenage/college life. My only criticism would be that the novel by and large was far too long, and Charlotte's endless depression was waayy too melodramatic and long. Otherwise, a really good book. It's a good, but lonnnnng fun read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 26, 2005

    An interesting read

    Okay, having just finished it I have to say that I am disappointed in Charlotte's 'dispersal' (or 'diversal') of moral fortitude. What part of her original resolve (I AM .... ) remains when she seems to draw her value from how others perceive her, i.e., wishing that Bettina and Mimi could she her being 'important' in the bleachers as JoJo's girlfriend and having the 'Douche' sisters recognize her and want her in their midst? I just wish she had stuck to her guns about being a person of 'the mind' and excelling in academia. My perception is that she has been diluted somehow... the Mr. Starling exchange in the end a sad commentary. Hey -- kids were doing what these kids did back when I was in college in the 70's -- still the free love era, pre-aids. Ditto for drinking and drugs. Some of the stereotypes were wonderful but they seemed a little forced. I love Tom Wolfe's books. This one is not as good as Bonfires and Man in Full. Credit is due, however, for the dead-on chapters about that frat formal right from the boat bag and the drive to D.C. up through the drop-off point on Sunday afternoon. I cringed and cried along with her. I will say that the amount of alcohol she drank at the formal should have had her passed-out on her dinner plate long before the dessert came, if not throwing up everywhere. She should have died from alcohol poisoning for the amount he claims she imbibed. A college kid in our town did. That she even cared or knew what was going on by the time they reached the hotel room that night was not believable. A kudo for Wolfe is the description of Charlotte's depression following the formal. When she was back in Sparta -- it was very painful to read. However, I balk at the notion that this crippling behavior could be dispelled by hanging out with Adam watching over her. Plainly not realistic. One cannot rationalize their way out of deeply-felt grief. Lastly, I want to thank Wolfe for putting the spotlight on the special treatment of student -athletes. The irony of that situation was displayed beautifully. I'm not sure Jojo's transformation is totally believable, but the rest of the basketball player saga certainly is.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2005

    Not one of Tom Wolfe's best

    I enjoyed the storyline but found it too long. Also, the chapters on Darwinism were too intense. Tom Wolfe has written some great books unfortunately this is not one of them.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2005

    Entertaining, but highly exaggerated

    I enjoyed the book, but as a college student, I had to shake my head several times during the course of reading this fictional tale. Tom Wolfe described every clique with the most stereotypical characteristics possible, and with severe, impossible-to-cross lines between different groups. Take the story with a grain of salt. By the end of the book, I was reading it for its entertainment value and satire of higher learning, not as a guideline or cautionary tale of attending college.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 13, 2005

    Good, but not the standard

    Tom Wolfe has written several wonderful books, and I think the reviewers are close to right on this one. I think what readers miss here is the coming of age angst that stories about high school and college conjure up. Wolfe tries to observe rather than deliver in this one.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2005

    Readable, but lacking substance

    I liked this books as soon as I began reading the first page, and continued to until about halfway through. As soon as I felt I was truly beginning to understand the intricacies of the main character, Charlotte, Wolfe seems to disengage her from the reader. I end up feeling as though I never really knew her at all, which is disconcerting, and even frustrating. The book also devotes significant time to characters who I feel are not developed to their potential. Of course Wolfe may have intended this. Most of the characters were based so much on traditional stereotypes, they resembled caricatures. The story taken at face value is quite enjoyable, and the language is believeable.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 29, 2004

    Things are better than this!

    If we were to believe 70 yr old Tom Wolfe there would be little hope left for our society. While I agree that there are people as described in his novel--I didn't see one character, including Charlotte herself with any redeeming features. Charlotte quickly throws her high and mighty 'values' away and then regrets it, spends a lot of time feeling sorry for herself and being dismissive to others that she feels aren't as good as she. In the end she ends up as some kind of 'Stepford Girlfriend' to JoJo who seems basically harmless, but if she is so smart why in the world would she end up with him?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 17, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 10, 2009

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    Posted November 15, 2008

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 13, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 6, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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