THERE'S AN ENVY to Tom Wolfe's usual run of detractors, of course, but something more than envy--a resentment, an ache, a fury: If I could write like that, a small cat snarls inside each of their heads, I'd . . . I'd change things in this rabid, racist, right-wing world. I'd zola the rich bastards until they burbled for mercy. I'd dickens the corporate polluters until they drowned themselves in their own sick sludge. I'd thackeray, I'd balzac, I'd dostoyevsky everyone who doesn't get it--it, IT, the ineffable IT of political conscience, the mystical rightness that lets a Princeton professor be a revolutionary and, well, a Princeton professor at the same time. God--or Charles Darwin, maybe, or some freak of perverse genetics--put a sword in Tom Wolfe's hands, and the oblivious creep won't use it to smite the ungodly. The man doesn't deserve his sentences. Prose belongs to us, by divine right and right of conquest. And here comes this white-suited fake dandy, this reporter, to set up camp right in the middle of it, like John Ashcroft--or Gary Bauer or, I don't know, Elmer Gantry--buying the prettiest summer house on Martha's Vineyard.
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