Hooking Up

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Overview

Only yesterday boys and girls spoke of embracing and kissing (necking) as getting to first base. Second base was deep kissing, plus groping and fondling this and that. Third base was oral sex. Home plate was going all the way. That was yesterday. Here in the Year 2000 we can forget about necking. Today's girls and boys have never heard of anything that dainty. Today first base is deep kissing, now known as tonsil hockey, plus groping and fondling this and that. Second base is oral sex. Third base is going all the...

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Overview

Only yesterday boys and girls spoke of embracing and kissing (necking) as getting to first base. Second base was deep kissing, plus groping and fondling this and that. Third base was oral sex. Home plate was going all the way. That was yesterday. Here in the Year 2000 we can forget about necking. Today's girls and boys have never heard of anything that dainty. Today first base is deep kissing, now known as tonsil hockey, plus groping and fondling this and that. Second base is oral sex. Third base is going all the way. Home plate is being introduced by name.

And how rarely our hooked-up boys and girls are introduced by name!-as Tom Wolfe has discovered from a survey of girls' File-o-Fax diaries, to cite but one of Hooking Up's displays of his famed reporting prowess. Wolfe ranges from coast to coast chronicling everything from the sexual manners and mores of teenagers... to fundamental changes in the way human beings now regard themselves thanks to the hot new field of genetics and neuroscience. . . to the inner workings of television's magazine-show sting operations.

Printed here in its entirety is "Ambush at Fort Bragg," a novella about sting TV in which Wolfe prefigured with eerie accuracy three cases of scandal and betrayal that would soon explode in the press. A second piece of fiction, "U. R. Here," the story of a New York artist who triumphs precisely because of his total lack of talent, gives us a case history preparing us for Wolfe's forecast ("My Three Stooges," "The Invisible Artist") of radical changes about to sweep the arts in America.

As an espresso after so much full-bodied twenty-first-century fare, we get a trip to Memory Mall. Reprinted here for the first time are Wolfe's two articles about The New Yorker magazine and its editor, William Shawn, which ignited one of the great firestorms of twentieth-century journalism. Wolfe's afterword about it all is in itself a delicious draught of an intoxicating era, the Twistin' Sixties.

In sum, here is Tom Wolfe at the height of his powers as reporter, novelist, sociologist, memoirist, and-to paraphrase what Balzac called himself-the very secretary of American society in the 21st century.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The eminent novelist Tom Wolfe has built a literary career by writing fiction steeped in what he calls "detailed realism," where the novelist becomes a sort of reporter. His latest offering, Hooking Up, continues in that vein. It is a book in three parts: one part novella, one part memoir, one part rumination on American life at the turn of the millennium. The novella, "Ambush at Fort Bragg," grew out of research Wolfe did for his previous novel, A Man in Full, while the rest of Hooking Up details everything from his take on contemporary sexual practices among teenagers to his now-infamous scuffle with a trio of American literary luminaries, John Updike, Norman Mailer, and John Irving.
From the Publisher
"At heart he is and always will be a terrific reporter. Hooking Up provides a great introduction to Wolfe the nonfiction stylist: the peerless portraitist, the contrarian social critic and the literary bomb thrower. The book's title is a sexual metaphor, but in Wolfe's hands, it means making connections among the culture's disparate corners. And nobody hooks up better than he does." —Malcolm Jones, Newsweek

"The rich retrospective of one of America's finest writers." —Michael Pakenham, Baltimore Sun

"The publication of Hooking Up, Wolfe's first book of short pieces in 20 years, is reason enough for celebration . . . Delicious." —Benjamin Svetkey, Entertainment Weekly

"Turn to the three essays grouped under the title "The Human Beast," and you will be in Wolfe heaven. The first of these—is an exuberant history of the birth of Silicon Valley...'Digibabble, Fairy Dust, and the Human Anthill' moves from the semiconductor industry to the Internet and then, by a kind of intuitive leap, to neuroscience and sociobiology. 'Sorry, but Your Soul Just Died' delves into brain imaging and the genetic determination of character. Jesuit priest Piere Teilhard de Chardin, closet Catholic Marshall McLuhan, and scientist Edmund O. Wilson are the pivotal figures of these two essays." —Michael Upchurch, Seattle Times

"I love Tom Wolfe 'Whenever some big bizarro thing happens' I want the man in the white suit to do his usual exhausting reporting, turn the labels inside out and the hypocrites upside down . . .and tell me what's what in one of those jittering, dazzling riffs of his." —Maureen Dowd, The New York Times

"His fans will find plenty of evidence that Wolfe remains willing to plunge into 'the raw, raucous, lust-soaked rout that throbs with amped-up octophonic typanum all around [him]' and that—especially in his nonfiction—he can still grab the brass ring." —Publishers Weekly (starred)

Forbes Magazine
The finest essayist-cum-novelist-cum-reporter of our era, Wolfe combines lively writing and endless energy with an astonishingly astute, ever-curious eye.
Benjamin Svetkey
The publication of Hooking Up, Wolfe's first book of short pieces in 20 years, is reason enough for celebration...Delicious. —Entertainment Weekly
Michael Pakenham
The rich retrospective of one of America's finest writers. —Baltimore Sun
From The Critics
It's been almost two decades since Wolfe's last collection of nonfiction. And while this book is not as spark-filled or epoch-defining as his classic books of the 1960s and ‘70s, it still hits the mark more often than not. "Digibabble, Fairy Dust and the Human Anthill" meshes Edward O. Wilson, Marshall McLuhan, Internet cheerleaders and Darwinian fundamentalists into a grand question about humanity's future. "The Invisible Artist" (about sculptor Frederick Hart) and "My Three Stooges" (namely, John Updike, Norman Mailer and John Irving) are dead-on salvos in the culture wars that call for a return to the values of the past as a means of moving forward the moribund worlds of literature and art (Wolfe might be conservative, but he's never reactionary; his mind is too sharp and ever-roving). The only letdowns of the book are a history of two early Silicon Valley pioneers (interesting but semi-generic; it's beneath Wolfe) and his novella, "Ambush at Fort Bragg," previously only published on audio. It's hard not to get a charge out of this collection, whose subject matter proves Wolfe's declaration that, "The human comedy never runs out of material! It never lets you down!"
-—Chris Barsanti
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Arch, vengeful and incisive as ever, the standard bearer for the chattering classes is back, this time with a collection of nine previously published essays, one new one and a reprinted novella. Ranging from the spectacular innovations of neuroscience to the preposterous horrors of the contemporary art world to a bare-knuckled assessment of the critical reception to his novel A Man in Full (an essay that appears for the first time in this collection, and that will set tongues wagging), the pieces run the gamut of Wolfe's signature obsessions. Fans of his character sketches will relish "Two Young Men Who Went West," a revelatory profile of Robert Noyce, a key innovator of the microchip who founded Intel in 1968, where the midwestern Congregationalist values he shared with his former mentor, William Shockley (founder of the original Silicon Valley startup, Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory), grew into a business philosophy that's now so pervasive it's practically in the ether. Also included are Wolfe's infamous, irreverent profiles of New Yorker editors Harold Ross and William Shawn, originally published in 1968. Lopped off of Wolfe's most recent fiction opus, the novella "Ambush in Fort Bragg" concerns a "TV sting" run amok, and sits easily next to his journalism. However, Wolfe's meticulous eye for detail shows signs of jaundice in his hectoring anti-Communist tirades and in the title essay, which turns a snide backward glance on the turn of the millennium. Still, his fans will find plenty of evidence that Wolfe remains willing to plunge into "the raw, raucous, lust-soaked rout that throbs with amped-up octophonic typanum all around [him]" and that--especially in his nonfiction--he can still grab the brass ring. Agent, Janklow & Nesbitt Associates. (Oct.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Forbes Magazine
You will probably learn more from reading this collection of Wolfe masterpieces (two of which originally appeared in Forbes ASAP) than you did during any of your years at college. The Finest essayist-cum-novelist-cum-reporter of our era, Wolfe combines lively writing and endless energy with an astonishingly astute, ever-curious eye. He pithily, accurately probes Robert Noyce, the co-inventor of the integrated circuit, in a now-classic essay. He lays out the deadly impact of what Friedrich Nietzsche proclaimed as the death of God. Wolfe discusses the rise of neurology and the notion that much of what we do is “hardwired” by the time we are born; the absurdity of our even-indignant academics and intellectuals; and the sad, pathetic state of American art and the American novel. This volume also includes Wolfe’s famous, impish, the emperor-has-no-clothes profile of the once incredibly successful, formidably prestigious The New Yorker, as well as anovella that bares the working ethics of sting TV. (2 Apr 2001)
—Steve Forbes
Library Journal
In this audiobook, Wolfe (The Bonfire of the Vanities) chronicles the "here and now." He reports on everything from the creation of the Intel computer chip, the sexual activities of today's teenager, the definition of art over the ages, an in-depth look at the new field of genetics and neuroscience, and the dissolution of the human soul, as well as many other "now" topics. In fact, Wolfe takes potentially boring subjects and turns them into a verbose tour de force. That said, his style of writing is awe inspiring. Read wonderfully by the author and actor Ron Rifkin, this is highly recommended.--Marty D. Evensvold, Arkansas City P.L., KS Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Malcolm Jones
Hooking Up provides a great introduction to Wolfe the nonfiction stylist: the peerless portraitist (Robert Noyce, Frederick Hart), the contrarian social critic ("In the Land of the Rococo Marxists") and the literary bomb thrower ("My Three Stooges").
Newsweek
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374103828
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 10/31/2000
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 293
  • Product dimensions: 6.46 (w) x 9.63 (h) x 1.01 (d)

Meet the Author

Tom Wolfe

Tom Wolfe is one of the founders of the new journalism movement and author of such contemporary classics as The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, The Right Stuff, The Bonfire of the Vanities, A Man in Full and I Am Charlotte Simmons. A native of Richmond, Virginia, he earned his B.A. at Washington and Lee University and a Ph.D. in American studies at Yale. He lives in New York City.

Biography

Tom Wolfe was born and raised in Richmond, Virginia. He was educated at Washington and Lee (B.A., 1951) and Yale (Ph.D., American Studies, 1957) Universities. In December 1956, he took a job as a reporter on the Springfield (Massachusetts) Union. This was the beginning of a ten-year newspaper career, most of it as a general assignment reporter. For six months in 1960 he served as The Washington Post's Latin American correspondent and won the Washington Newspaper Guild's foreign news prize for his coverage of Cuba.

In 1962 he became a reporter for the New York Herald Tribune and, in addition, one of the two staff writers (Jimmy Breslin was the other) of New York magazine, which began as the Herald Tribune's Sunday supplement. While still a daily reporter for the Herald Tribune, he completed his first book, a collection of articles about the flamboyant Sixties written for New York and Esquire and published in 1965 by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux as The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby. The book became a bestseller and established Wolfe as a leading figure in the literary experiments in nonfiction that became known as the New Journalism.

In 1968 he published two bestsellers on the same day: The Pump House Gang, made up of more articles about life in the Sixties, and The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, a nonfiction story of the hippie era. In 1970 he published Radical Chick & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers, a highly controversial book about racial friction in the United States. The first section was a detailed account of a party Leonard Bernstein gave for the Black Panthers in his Park Avenue duplex, and the second portrayed the inner workings of the government's poverty program.

Even more controversial was Wolfe's 1975 book on the American art world, The Painted Word. The art world reacted furiously, partly because Wolfe kept referring to it as the "art village," depicting it as a network of no more than three thousand people, of whom about three hundred lived outside the New York metropolitan area. In 1976 he published another collection, Mauve Gloves & Madmen, Clutter & Vine, which included his well-known essay "The Me Decade and the Third Great Awakening."

In 1979 Wolfe completed a book he had been at work on for more than six years, an account of the rocket airplane experiments of the post-World War II era and the early space program focusing upon the psychology of the rocket pilots and the astronauts and the competition between them. The Right Stuff became a bestseller and won the American Book Award for nonfiction, the National Institute of Arts and Letters Harold Vursell Award for prose style, and the Columbia Journalism Award.

"The right stuff," "radical chic," and "the Me Decade" (sometimes altered to "the Me Generation") all became popular phrases, but Wolfe seems proudest of "good ol' boy," which he had introduced to the written language in a 1964 article in Esquire about Junior Johnson, the North Carolina stock car-racing driver, which was called "The Last American Hero."

Wolfe had been illustrating his own work in newspapers and magazines since the 1950s, and in 1977 began doing a monthly illustrated feature for Harper's magazine called "In Our Time". The book, In Our Time, published in 1980, featured these drawings and many others. In 1981 he wrote a companion to The Painted Word entitled From Bauhaus to Our House, about the world of American architecture.

In 1984 and 1985 Wolfe wrote his first novel, The Bonfire of the Vanities, in serial form against a deadline of every two weeks for Rolling Stone magazine. It came out in book form in 1987. A story of the money-feverish 1980s in New York, The Bonfire of the Vanities was number one of the New York Times bestseller list for two months and remained on the list for more than a year, selling over 800,000 copies in hardcover. It also became the number-one bestselling paperback, with sales above two million.

In 1989 Wolfe outraged the literacy community with an essay in Harper's magazine called "Stalking the Billion-footed Beast." In it he argued that the only hope for the future of the American novel was a Zola-esque naturalism in which the novelist becomes the reporter -- as he had done in writing The Bonfire of the Vanities, which was recognized as the essential novel of America in the 1980s.

In 1996, Wolfe wrote the novella Ambush at Fort Bragg as a two-part series for Rolling Stone. In 1997 it was published as a book in France and Spain and as an audiotape in the United States. An account of a network television magazine show's attempt to trap three soldiers at Fort Bragg into confessing to the murder of one of their comrades, it grew out of what had been intended as one theme in a novel Wolfe was working on at that time. The novel, A Man in Full, was published in November of 1998. The book's protagonists are a sixty-year old Atlanta real estate developer whose empire has begun a grim slide toward bankruptcy and a twenty-three-year-old manual laborer who works in the freezer unit of a wholesale food warehouse in Alameda County, California, owned by the developer. Before the story ends, both have had to face the question of what is it that makes a man "a man in full" now, at the beginning of a new century and a new millennium.

A Man in Full headed the New York Times bestseller list for ten weeks and has sold nearly 1.4 million copies in hardcover. The book's tremendous commercial success, its enthusiastic welcome by reviewers, and Wolfe's appearance on the cover of Time magazine in his trademark white suit plus a white homburg and white kid gloves -- along with his claim that his sort of detailed realism was the future of the American novel, if it was going to have one -- provoked a furious reaction among other American novelists, notably John Updike, Norman Mailer, and John Irving.

Wolfe's latest novel, I Am Charlotte Simmons, explores the unique antics of college life. He lives in New York City with his wife, Sheila; his daughter, Alexandra; and his son, Tommy.

Author biography courtesy of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Thomas Kennerly Wolfe Jr. (full name)
    2. Hometown:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      March 2, 1931
    2. Place of Birth:
      Richmond, Virginia
    1. Education:
      B.A. (cum laude), Washington and Lee University, 1951; Ph.D. in American Studies, Yale University, 1957
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt




Chapter One

Hooking Up:
What Life Was Like at the Turn
of the Second Millennium:
An American's World


By the year 2000, the term "working class" had fallen into disuse in the United States, and "proletariat" was so obsolete it was known only to a few bitter old Marxist academics with wire hair sprouting out of their ears. The average electrician, air-conditioning mechanic, or burglar-alarm repairman lived a life that would have made the Sun King blink. He spent his vacations in Puerto Vallarta, Barbados, or St. Kitts. Before dinner he would be out on the terrace of some resort hotel with his third wife, wearing his Ricky Martin cane-cutter shirt open down to the sternum, the better to allow his gold chains to twinkle in his chest hairs. The two of them would have just ordered a round of Quibel sparkling water, from the state of West Virginia, because by 2000 the once-favored European sparkling waters Perrier and San Pellegrino seemed so tacky.

    European labels no longer held even the slightest snob appeal except among people known as "intellectuals," whom we will visit in a moment. Our typical mechanic or tradesman took it for granted that things European were second-rate. Aside from three German luxury automobiles—the Mercedes-Benz, the BMW, and the Audi—he regarded European-manufactured goods as mediocre to shoddy. On his trips abroad, our electrician, like any American businessman, would go to superhuman lengths to avoid being treated in European hospitals, which struck him as little better than those in the Third World. He consideredEuropean hygiene so primitive that to receive an injection in a European clinic voluntarily was sheer madness.

    Indirectly, subconsciously, his views perhaps had to do with the fact that his own country, the United States, was now the mightiest power on earth, as onmipotent as Macedon under Alexander the Great, Rome under Julius Caesar, Mongolia under Genghis Khan, Turkey under Mohammed II, or Britain under Queen Victoria. His country was so powerful, it had begun to invade or rain missiles upon small nations in Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean for no other reason than that their leaders were lording it over their subjects at home.

    Our air-conditioning mechanic had probably never heard of Saint-Simon, but he was fulfilling Saint-Simon's and the other nineteenth-century utopian socialists' dreams of a day when the ordinary workingman would have the political and personal freedom, the free time and the wherewithal to express himself in any way he saw fit and to unleash his full potential. Not only that, any ethnic or racial group—any, even recent refugees from a Latin country—could take over the government of any American city, if they had the votes and a modicum of organization. Americans could boast of a freedom as well as a power unparalleled in the history of the world.

    Our typical burglar-alarm repairman didn't display one erg of chauvinistic swagger, however. He had been numbed by the aforementioned "intellectuals," who had spent the preceding eighty years being indignant over what a "puritanical," "repressive," "bigoted," "capitalistic," and "fascist" nation America was beneath its democratic façade. It made his head hurt. Besides, he was too busy coping with what was known as the "sexual revolution." If anything, "sexual revolution" was rather a prim term for the lurid carnival actually taking place in the mightiest country on earth in the year 2000. Every magazine stand was a riot of bare flesh, rouged areolae, moistened crevices, and stiffened giblets: boys with girls, girls with girls, boys with boys, bare-breasted female bodybuilders, so-called boys with breasts, riding backseat behind steroid-gorged bodybuilding bikers, naked except for cache-sexes and Panzer helmets, on huge chromed Honda or Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

    But the magazines were nothing compared with what was offered on an invention of the 1990s, the Internet. By 2000, an estimated 50 percent of all hits, or "log-ons," were at Web sites purveying what was known as "adult material." The word "pornography" had disappeared down the memory hole along with "proletariat." Instances of marriage breaking up because of Web-sex addiction were rising in number. The husband, some fifty-two-year-old MRI technician or systems analyst would sit in front of the computer for twenty-four or more hours at stretch. Nothing that the wife could offer him in the way of sexual delights or food could compare with the one-handing he was doing day and night as he sat before the PC and logged on to such images as a girl with bare breasts and a black leather corset standing with one foot on the small of a naked boy's back, brandishing a whip.

    In 1999, the year before, this particular sexual kink— sado-masochism—had achieved not merely respectability but high chic, and the word "perversion" had become as obsolete as "pornography" and "proletariat." Fashion pages presented the black leather and rubber paraphernalia as style's cutting edge. An actress named Rene Russo blithely recounted in the Living section of one of America's biggest newspapers how she had consulted a former dominatrix named Eva Norvind, who maintained a dungeon replete with whips and chains and assorted baffling leather masks, chokers, and cuffs, in order to prepare for a part as an aggressive, self-obsessed agent provocateur in The Thomas Crown Affair, Miss Russo's latest movie.

    "Sexy" was beginning to replace "chic" as the adjective indicating what was smart and up-to-the-minute. In the year 2000, it was standard practice for the successful chief executive officer of a corporation to shuck his wife of two to three decades' standing for the simple reason that her subcutaneous packing was deteriorating, her shoulders and upper back were thickening like a shot-putter's—in short, she was no longer sexy. Once he set up the old wife in a needlepoint shop where she could sell yarn to her friends, he was free to take on a new wife, a "trophy wife," preferably a woman in her twenties, and preferably blond, as in an expression from that time, a "lemon tart." What was the downside? Was the new couple considered radioactive socially? Did people talk sotto voce, behind the hand, when the tainted pair came by? Not for a moment. All that happened was that everybody got on the cell phone or the Internet and rang up or E-mailed one another to find out the spelling of the new wife's first name, because it was always some name like Serena and nobody was sure how to spell it. Once that was written down in the little red Scully & Scully address book that was so popular among people of means, the lemon tart and her big CEO catch were invited to all the parties, as though nothing had happened.

    Meanwhile, sexual stimuli bombarded the young so incessantly and intensely they were inflamed with a randy itch long before reaching puberty. At puberty the dams, if any were left, burst. In the nineteenth century, entire shelves used to be filled with novels whose stories turned on the need for women, such as Anna Karenina or Madame Bovary, to remain chaste or to maintain a façade of chastity. In the year 2000, a Tolstoy or a Flaubert wouldn't have stood a chance in the United States. From age thirteen, American girls were under pressure to maintain a façade of sexual experience and sophistication. Among girls, "virgin" was a term of contempt. The old term "dating" — referring to a practice in which a boy asked a girl out for the evening and took her to the movies or dinner—was now deader than "proletariat" or "pornography" or "perversion." In junior high school, high school, and college, girls headed out in packs in the evening, and boys headed out in packs, hoping to meet each other fortuitously. If they met and some girl liked the looks of some boy, she would give him the nod, or he would give her the nod, and the two of them would retire to a halfway-private room and "hook up."

    "Hooking up" was a term known in the year 2000 to almost every American child over the age of nine, but to only a relatively small percentage of their parents, who, even if they heard it, thought it was being used in the old sense of "meeting" someone. Among the children, hooking up was always a sexual experience, but the nature and extent of what they did could vary widely. Back in the twentieth century, American girls had used baseball terminology. "First base" referred to embracing and kissing; "second base" referred to groping and fondling and deep, or "French," kissing, commonly known as "heavy petting"; "third base" referred to fellatio, usually known in polite conversation by the ambiguous term "oral sex"; and "home plate" meant conception-mode intercourse, known familiarly as "going all the way." In the year 2000, in the era of hooking up, "first base" meant deep kissing ("tonsil hockey"), groping, and fondling; "second base" meant oral sex; "third base" meant going all the way; and "home plate" meant learning each other's names.

    Getting to home plate was relatively rare, however. The typical Filofax entry in the year 2000 by a girl who had hooked up the night before would be: "Boy with black Wu-Tang T-shirt and cargo pants: O, A, 6." Or "Stupid cock diesel" — slang for a boy who was muscular from lifting weights—"who kept saying, `This is a cool deal': TTC, 3." The letters referred to the sexual acts performed (e.g., TTC for "that thing with the cup"), and the Arabic number indicated the degree of satisfaction on a scale of 1 to 10.

    In the year 2000, girls used "score" as an active verb indicating sexual conquest, as in: "The whole thing was like very sketchy, but I scored that diesel who said he was gonna go home and caff up [drink coffee in order to stay awake and study] for the psych test." In the twentieth century, only boys had used "score" in that fashion, as in: "I finally scored with Susan last night." That girls were using such a locution points up one of the ironies of the relations between the sexes in the year 2000. The continuing vogue of feminism had made sexual life easier, even insouciant, for men. Women had been persuaded that they should be just as active as men when it came to sexual advances. Men were only too happy to accede to the new order, since it absolved them of all sense of responsibility, let alone chivalry. Men began to adopt formerly feminine attitudes when the subject of marriage came up, pleading weakness and indecisiveness, as in: "I don't know; I'm just not ready yet" or "Of course I love you, but like, you know, I start weirding out when I try to focus on it."

    With the onset of puberty, males were able to get sexual enjoyment so easily, so casually, that junior high schools as far apart geographically and socially as the slums of the South Bronx and Washington's posh suburbs of Arlington and Talbot County, Virginia, began reporting a new discipline problem. Thirteen- and fourteen-year-old girls were getting down on their knees and fellating boys in corridors and stairwells during the two-minute break between classes. One thirteen-year-old in New York, asked by a teacher how she could do such a thing, replied: "It's nasty, but I need to satisfy my man." Nasty was an aesthetic rather than a moral or hygienic judgment. In the year 2000, boys and girls did not consider fellatio to be a truely sexual act, any more than tonsil hockey. It was just "fooling around." The President of the United States at the time used to have a twenty-two-year-old girl, an unpaid volunteer in the presidential palace, the White House, come around to his office for fellatio. He later testified under oath that he had never "had sex" with her. Older Americans tended to be shocked, but junior-high- school, high-school, and college students understood completely what he was saying and wondered what on earth all the fuss was about. The two of them had merely been on second base, hooking up.

    Teenage girls spoke about their sex lives to total strangers without the least embarrassment or guile. One New York City newspaper sent out a man-on-the-street interviewer with the question: "How did you lose your virginity?" Girls as well as boys responded without hesitation, posed for photographs, and divulged their name, age, and the neighborhood where they lived.

    Stains and stigmas of every kind were disappearing where sex was concerned. Early in the twentieth century the term "cohabitation" had referred to the forbidden practice of a man and woman living together before marriage. In the year 2000, nobody under forty had ever heard of the word, since cohabitation was now the standard form of American courtship. For parents over forty, one of the thornier matters of etiquette concerned domestic bed assignments. When your son or daughter came home for the weekend with the live-in consort, did you put the two of them in the same bedroom, which would indicate implicit approval of the discomforting fail accompli? Or did you put them in different bedrooms and lie awake, rigid with insomnia, fearful of hearing muffled footfalls in the hallway in the middle of the night?

    Putting them in different rooms was a decidedly old-fashioned thing to do; and in the year 2000, thanks to the feverish emphasis on sex and sexiness, nobody wanted to appear old, let alone old-fashioned. From the city of Baltimore came reports of grandmothers having their eyebrows, tongues, and lips pierced with gold rings in order to appear younger, since body-piercing was a popular fashion among boys and girls in their teens and early twenties. Expectant mothers were having their belly buttons pierced with gold rings so that the shapelessness of pregnancy would not make them feel old. An old man who had been prominent United States senator and a presidential candidate, emerged from what he confessed to have been a state of incapacity to go on television to urge other old men to take a drug called Viagra to free them from what he said was one of the scourges of modern times, the disease that dared not speak its name: impotence. He dared not speak it, either He called it "E.D.," for erectile dysfunction. Insurance companies were under pressure to classify impotence in old men as a disease and to pay for treatment.

    In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, old people in America had prayed, "Please, God, don't let me look poor." In the year 2000, they prayed, "Please, God, don't let me look old." Sexiness was equated with youth, and youth ruled. The most widespread age-related disease was not senility but juvenility. The social ideal was to look twenty-three and dress thirteen. All over the country, old men and women were dressing casually at every opportunity, wearing jeans, luridly striped sneakers, shorts, T-shirts, polo shirts, jackets, and sweaters, heedless of how such clothes revealed every sad twist, bow, hump, and webbed-up vein clump of their superannuated bodies. For that matter, in the year 2000, people throughout American society were inverting norms of dress that had persisted for centuries, if not millennia. Was the majesty of America's global omnipotence reflected in the raiments of the rich and prominent? Quite the opposite. In the year 2000, most American billionaires—and the press no longer took notice of men worth a mere $500 million or $750 million—lived in San Jose and Santa Clara Counties, California, an area known nationally, with mythic awe, as the Silicon Valley, the red-hot center of the computer and Internet industries. In 1999, the Internet industry alone had produced fourteen new billionaires. The Valley's mythology was full of the sagas of young men who had gone into business for themselves, created their own companies straight out of college, or, better still, had dropped out of college to launch their "start-ups," as these new digital-age enterprises were known. Such were the new "Masters of the Universe," a term coined in the eighties to describe the (mere) megamillionaires spawned by Wall Street during a boom in the bond business. By comparison with the Valley's boy billionaires, the Wall Streeters, even though they were enjoying a boom in the stock market in the year 2000, seemed slow and dreary. Typically, they graduated from college, worked for three years as number-crunching donkeys in some large investment-banking firm, went off to business school for two years to be certified as Masters of Business Administration, then returned to some investment-banking firm and hoped to start making some real money by the age of thirty. The stodginess of such a career was symbolized by the stodginess of their dress. Even the youngest of them dressed like old men: the clark blah suit, the light blah shirt, the hopelessly "interesting" Hermès tie ... Many of them even wore silk braces.

    The new Masters of the Universe turned all that upside down. At Il Fornaio restaurant in Palo Alto, California, where they gathered to tell war stories and hand out business cards at breakfast, the billionaire founders of the new wonder corporations walked in the door looking like well-pressed, well-barbered beachcombers, but beachcombers all the same. They wore khakis, boating moccasins (without socks), and ordinary cotton shirts with the cuffs rolled up and the front unbuttoned to the navel, and that was it. You could tell at a glance that a Silicon Valley billionaire carried no cell phone, Palm Pilot, HP-19B calculator, or RIM pager—he had people who did that for him. Having breakfast with him at Il Fornaio would be a vice president whose net worth was $100 or $200 million. He would be dressed just like the founder, except that he would also be wearing a sport jacket. Why? So that he could carry ... the cell phone, the Palm Pilot, the HP-19B calculator, and the RIM pager, which received E-mail and felt big as a brick. But why not an attaché case? Because that was what old-fashioned businessmen Back East carried. Nobody would be caught dead at Il Fornaio carrying an attaché case. The Back East attaché case was known scornfully as "the leather lunch pail."

    When somebody walked into Il Fornaio wearing a suit and tie, he was likely to be mistaken for a maître d'. In the year 2000, as in prior ages, service personnel, such as doormen, chauffeurs, waiters, and maître d's, were expected to wear the anachronistic finery of bygone eras. In Silicon Valley, wearing a tie was a mark of shame that indicated you were everything a Master of the Universe was not. Gradually, it would dawn on you. The poor devil in the suit and tie held one of those lowly but necessary executive positions, in public or investor relations, in which one couldn't avoid dealing with Pliocene old parties from ... Back East.

(Continues...)

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Table of Contents

Hooking Up Hooking Up: What Life Was Like at the Turn of the Second Millennium: An American's World The Human Beast 3
Two Young Men Who Went West 17
Digibabble, Fairy Dust, and the Human Anthill 66
Sorry, but Your Soul Just Died 89
Vita Robusta, Ars Anorexica In the Land of the Rococo Marxists 113
The Invisible Artist 131
The Great Relearning 140
My Three Stooges 145
Ambush At Fort Bragg: A Novella Ambush at Fort Bragg 175
The New Yorker Affair Foreword: Murderous Gutter Journalism 249
Tiny Mummies! The True Story of the Ruler of 43rd Street's Land of the Walking Dead 255
Lost in the Whichy Thickets 268
Afterword: High in the Saddle 288
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 9, 2001

    A Baffling and Disappointing Pasticcio

    'Hooking Up' started promisingly but the further I read, the more baffled I became; with the final chapters leaving me perplexed and faintly disgusted. The book starts well with a chapter describing the rise of Robert Noyce and Intel. The story is opinionated, lively, and engaging. Things go rapidly downhill thereafter. The following chapter is a broad ramble about de Chardin, McLuhan, and E.O. Wilson; ending with a glowing description of Wilson's version of genetic determinism. In this chapter we learn that Wolfe makes arguments by appealing to authority and belittling his opponents. I used to think that these were the tactics of small amd peevish minds, but apparently Great Authors do it too. The descent continues with a discussion of 'neurometrics'. Wolfe is no scientist and manages to tread straight in the dung of pseudoscience in his discussion. This disasterous foray is followed by diatribes directed against European intellectualism and Updike, Mailer, and Irving. Here we learn that an author is good if his books sell well. I suppose that Danielle Steele and R.L. Stine are Really Great Authors. Can things get worse? Yes! Inserted in the middle of a nonfiction book are 70 pages of superfluous fiction. Apparently the editors at Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux thought the book was too short. The final 40-some pages rehash a dusty and long-forgotten 30 year old intellectual battle between New York editors you never heard about. I didn't care then, and I certainly don't care now. The disappointment of it all is enhanced by one of Wolfe's peculiar grammatical afflictions -- he loves the ellipsis and uses it constantly, which ... is ... enough ... to ... drive ... any ... sane ... person ... up ... the ... wall.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Excellent anthology

    HOOKING UP is an anthology of some of Tom Wolfe¿s famous satirical, often nasty, but humorous takes on American society, especially the literary world. He also compares the beginning of the ¿American¿ millennium to that of four decades ago. Mr. Wolfe leaves no doubt what he feels and what he believes most of the world thinks of the current American Revolution that centers on tremendous technological progress in genetics, computers, and the neurosciences. <P> The title story is very entertaining and if the reader has a teen or someone in their young twenties ask them about its accuracy. The other twelve short story-commentaries are all enjoyable though Mr. Wolfe¿s fans have read some of them already. The novella forecasts TV scandals and though it does not quite hook the reader beyond second base (remember this reviewer is from the old school) quite like the rest of Mr. Wolfe¿s stinging commentaries, the tale seems accurately plausible. Fans of Mr. Wolfe will round the bases (old school) with HOOKING UP. <P>Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 29, 2000

    Tom Wolfe, A Man for All Readers

    Tom Wolfe has managed to be all things to all people. For fiction fans, he offers 'A Man in Full' and for those who prefer non-fiction, he tells it like it is with 'Hooking Up.' Like the the Thomases before him, Wolfe is as insightful as Aquinas and Merton and as courageous as Becket. May his words be taken as seriously.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 16, 2000

    Fascinating

    This is a fascinating tour de force regarding the foibles and mores of contemporary society.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 27, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 29, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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