Mauve Gloves and Madmen, Clutter and Vine

Overview

If generals prepare for the last war, the politicians run on yesterday's issues. Never was this truer than in the 1970s. Our elected elite couldn't get a handle on the times.

But Tom Wolfe could. In fact he gave the era its name -- "The Me Decade." And like an artist briskly painting the passing scene, he captured it in stories and essays. This collection includes the best -- "Pornoviolence," "Funky Chic," "The Man Who Always Peaked Too Soon" plus the story for which this ...

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1999 Soft cover New Book. 5 1/4 By 8 1/4" Style, Wit, insightful reporting, makes for wonderful stories.

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Mauve Gloves and Madmen, Clutter and Vine

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Overview

If generals prepare for the last war, the politicians run on yesterday's issues. Never was this truer than in the 1970s. Our elected elite couldn't get a handle on the times.

But Tom Wolfe could. In fact he gave the era its name -- "The Me Decade." And like an artist briskly painting the passing scene, he captured it in stories and essays. This collection includes the best -- "Pornoviolence," "Funky Chic," "The Man Who Always Peaked Too Soon" plus the story for which this collection is named.

"Wolfe sees it fresh and tells it true...great vivacity and intelligence." The Observer

A collection of rollicking essays that provided the 1970s with its name: "The Me Decade".

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"No one is as good as Wolfe on the contradictions between cushy class and angry consciousness . . . There essays . . . offer a lively picture of the surface of our society' one wishes life were this interesting." -Jack Beatty, The Nation

 

"This book serves as a reminder of how often Wolfe's refusal to be respectful toward any subject has produced both illumination and laughter." -Time

 

"Mr. Wolfe tackles all sorts of subjects ranging from life on an aircraft carrier (brilliantly described) to the goings-on at a convention of National Enquirer freelance writers . . . The master of trivia also offers an underlying theme in his essays and stories: the enormous gap (as he perceives it) between the intellectuals' negative view of America and the positive reality." -Roger Ricklefs, The Wall Street Journal

 

"It's all right here! Again! The wicked maestro has done it again!" -Tom Nolan, The Los Angeles Times Book Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780553380590
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/28/1999
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 5.81 (w) x 8.34 (h) x 0.68 (d)

Meet the Author

Tom Wolfe is the author of more than a dozen books, among them such contemporary classics as The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, The Right Stuff, The Bonfire of the Vanities, and A Man in Full. 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

Mauve Gloves & Madmen, Clutter & Vine

The well-known American writer . . . but perhaps it's best not to say exactly which well-known American writer . . . they're a sensitive breed! The most ordinary comments they take personally! And why would the gentleman we're about to surprise be any exception? He's in his apartment, a seven-room apartment on Riverside Drive, on the West Side of Manhattan, in his study, seated at his desk. As we approach from the rear, we notice a bald spot on the crown of his head. It's about the size of a Sunshine Chip-a-Roo cookie, this bald spot, freckled and toasty brown. Gloriously suntanned, in fact. Around this bald spot swirls a corona of dark-brown hair that becomes quite thick by the time it completes its mad Byronic rush down the back over his turtleneck and out to the side in great bushes over his ears. He knows the days of covered ears are numbered, because this particular look has become somewhat Low Rent. When he was coming back from his father's funeral, half the salesmen lined up at O'Hare for the commuter flights, in their pajama-striped shirts and diamond-print double-knit suits, had groovy hair much like his. And to think that just six years ago such a hairdo seemed . . . so defiant!

Meeting his sideburns at mid-jowl is the neck of his turtleneck sweater, an authentic Navy turtleneck, and the sweater tucks into his Levi's, which are the authentic Original XX Levi's, the original straight stovepipes made for wearing over boots. He got them in a bona fide cowhand's store in La Porte, Texas, during his trip to Houston to be the keynote speaker in a lecture series on "The American Dream: Myth and Reality." No small part of thelatter was a fee of two thousand dollars plus expenses. This outfit, the Navy turtleneck and the double-X Levi's, means work & discipline. Discipline! as he says to himself every day. When he puts on these clothes, it means that he intends to write, and do nothing else, for at least four hours. Discipline, Mr. Wonderful!

But on the desk in front of him--that's not a manuscript or even the beginnings of one . . . that's last month's bank statement, which just arrived in the mail. And those are his canceled checks in a pile on top of it. In that big ledger-style checkbook there (the old-fashioned kind, serious-looking, with no crazy Peter Max designs on the checks) are his check stubs. And those slips of paper in the promiscuous heap are all unpaid bills, and he's taking the nylon cover off his Texas Instruments desk calculator, and he is about to measure the flow, the tide, the mad sluice, the crazy current of the money that pours through his fingers every month and which is now running against him in the most catastrophic manner, like an undertow, a riptide, pulling him under--

--him and this apartment, which cost him $75,000 in 1972; $20,000 cash, which came out of the $25,000 he got as a paperback advance for his fourth book, Under Uncle's Thumb, and $536.36 a month in bank-loan payments (on the $55,000 he borrowed) ever since, plus another $390 a month in so-called maintenance, which has steadily increased until it is now $460 a month . . . and although he already knows the answer, the round number, he begins punching the figures into the calculator . . . 536.36 plus . . . 460 . . . times 12 . . . and the calculator keys go chuck chuck chuck chuck and the curious little orange numbers, broken up like stencil figures, go trucking across the black path of the display panel at the top of the machine, giving a little orange shudder every time he hits the plus button, until there it is, stretching out seven digits long--11956.32--$12,000 a year! One thousand dollars a month--this is what he spends on his apartment alone!--and by May he will have to come up with another $6,000 so he can rent the house on Martha's Vineyard again chuck chuck chuck chuck and by September another $6,750--$3,750 to send his daughter, Amy, to Dalton and $3,000 to send his son, Jonathan, to Collegiate (on those marvelous frog-and-cricket evenings up on the Vineyard he and Bill and Julie and Scott and Henry and Herman and Leon and Shelly and the rest, all Media & Lit. people from New York, have discussed why they send their children to private schools, and they have pretty well decided that it is the educational turmoil in the New York public schools that is the problem--the kids just wouldn't be educated!--plus some considerations of their children's personal safety--but--needless to say!--it has nothing to do with the matter of . . . well, race) and he punches that in . . . 6750 . . . chuck chuck chuck chuck . . . and hits the plus button . . . an orange shimmer . . . and beautiful! there's the figure--the three items, the apartment in town, the summer place, and the children's schooling--$24,706.32!--almost $25,000 a year in fixed costs, just for a starter! for lodging and schooling! nothing else included! A grim nut!

It's appalling, and he's drowning, and this is only the beginning of it, just the basic grim nut--and yet in his secret heart he loves these little sessions with the calculator and the checks and the stubs and the bills and the marching orange numbers that stretch on and on . . . into such magnificently huge figures. It's like an electric diagram of his infinitely expanding life, a scoreboard showing the big league he's now in. Far from throwing him into a panic, as they well might, these tote sessions are one of the most satisfying habits he has. A regular vice! Like barbiturates! Calming the heart and slowing the respiration! Because it seems practical, going over expenses, his conscience sanctions it as a permissible way to avoid the only thing that can possibly keep him afloat: namely, more writing . . . He's deep into his calculator trance now . . . The orange has him enthralled. Think of it! He has now reached a stage in his life when not only a $1,000-a-month apartment but also a summer house on an island in the Atlantic is an absolute necessity--precisely that, absolute necessity . . . It's appalling!--and yet it's the most inexplicable bliss!--nothing less.

As for the apartment, even at $1,000 a month it is not elegant. Elegance would cost at least twice that. No, his is an apartment of a sort known as West Side Married Intellectual. The rooms are big, the layout is good, but the moldings, cornices, covings, and chair rails seem to be corroding. Actually, they are merely lumpy from too many coats of paint over the decades, and the parquet sections in the floor have dried out and are sprung loose from one another. It has been a long time since this apartment has had an owner who could both meet the down-payment nut and have the woodwork stripped and the flooring replaced. The building has a doorman but no elevator man, and on Sundays the door is manned by a janitor in gray khaki work clothes. But what's he supposed to do? He needs seven rooms. His son and daughter now require separate bedrooms. He and his wife require a third one (a third and fourth if the truth be known, but he has had to settle for three). He now needs, not just likes, this study he's in, a workroom that is his exclusively. He now needs the dining room, which is a real dining room, not a dogleg off the living room. Even if he is giving only a cocktail party, it is . . . necessary that they (one & all) note--however unconsciously--that he does have a dining room!

Right here on his desk are the canceled checks that have come in hung over from the cocktail party he gave six weeks ago. They're right in front of him now . . . $209.60 to the florists, Clutter & Vine, for flowers for the hallway, the living room, the dining room, and the study, although part of that, $100, was for a bowl of tightly clustered silk poppies that will become a permanent part of the living-room decor . . . $138.18 to the liquor store (quite a bit was left over, however, meaning that the bar will be stocked for a while) . . . $257.50 to Mauve Gloves & Madmen, the caterers, even though he had chosen some of the cheaper hors d'oeuvres. He also tipped the two butlers $10 each, which made him feel a little foolish later when he learned that one of them was co-owner of Mauve Gloves & Madmen . . . $23.91 to the grocery store for he couldn't remember what . . . $173.95 to the Russian Tea Room for dinner afterward with Henry and Mavis (the guests of honor) and six other stragglers . . . $12.84 for a serving bowl from Bloomingdale's . . . $20 extra to the maid for staying on late . . . and he's chucking all these figures into the calculator chuck chuck chuck chuck blink blink blink blink truck truck truck truck the slanted orange numbers go trucking and winking across the panel . . . 855.98 . . . $855.98 for a cocktail party!--not even a dinner party!--appalling!--and how slyly sweet . . .
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