Saturday, February 26, 2005

Tournament of Books -- Final Round

The brackets are filled in and in what was a very close semi-final match between I Am Charlotte Simmons and Cloud Atlas, Cloud Atlas advances to face Philip Roth's The Plot Against America. The final round will be decided by Feb 28.

The Plot Against America won fairly easily over Heir to a Glimmering World. Both books focused on Jewish plights during WWII, one a fictional account of a New Jersey Jewish family under a Lindbergh presidency, the other focusing on Jews fleeing Nazi Europe.

Most interesting to me, though, has been the legs under I Am Charlotte Simmons. For every reviewer who hates the book, they all acknowledge that they just can't put it down! While it was evenly panned, mainly for not being Bonfire of the Vanities, a Man in Full was incredible even with all its faults. Some of the most enduring characters from Wolfe's Atlanta still live in my head today. But, reviewer and themorningnews.org editor Rosecrans Baldwin says it better than I can in a terrific review of Charlotte Simmons (and explanation as to why Cloud Atlas finally knocked the Wolfe behemoth out. )

And for more on Wolfe and his world view on "those kids today", or if you really just want to feel old, read his book of essays Hooking Up (2000 Picador). The title essay "Hooking Up: What Life Was Like at the Turn of the Second Millennium: An American's World" is a great basis for understanding the origins of I Am Charlotte Simmons. (The book also includes one of the best histories for non-technical people that I've read on the beginnings of the semiconductor business and how Silicon Valley become the center of it all called "Two Young Men Who Went West.")

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