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November 28, 2005


Wendy Shalit


I think you are probably right about this. What I found interesting was the scathing reaction from certain reviewers, not to the book itself but to the very idea of Charlotte being a virgin. Even a fictional virgin seemed to be too much for some people to handle. It's as if they were saying, how can Wolfe possibly expect us to sympathize with a young woman who is not jaded from the get-go? Pretty telling.

Liz Neville

Yes I did read the book in its entirety--well, I may have zoned out a bit around the description of the greasy spoon visited by Charlotte and her roommate's family-- and I loved it. It is more than a little disturbing, but I cherish Wolfe's talent for straight talk, and his reporter's eye. I found Charlotte very endearing, if a bit frustrating. Her parents did their best to ground her, but being so young and impressionable and thrown into such a completely different environment, I doubt she ever had a chance to avoid the humiliating crucible she suffered. The culture at the college was a rip tide that almost consumed her-- in fact it did swallow up her innocence (which, contrary to the singer Jewel's hopeful lyrics, CAN be lost). I think Wolfe was pointing that out. I hope he opened a lot of eyes with Charlotte; the pit of the sexual revolution and the loss of the courtship culture can be found on college campuses today.

Greg Feirman

I am glad somebody on this blog brought up "I Am Charlotte Simmons"! Very relevant to the concerns of this blog I think. I've only read about half the book but I am very sympathetic to Charlotte.

You write that Charlotte "never really knew who she was". But knowing who you are isn't an either/or thing: either you know who you are or you don't. As you go through life, especially when you are young, you are still learning and finding out what matters to you and what kind of person you are and aspire to be. You have experiences, make choices and over time you learn what works for you and what doesn't. I can think of mistakes that I've made but which didn't seem like mistakes when I made them. Did that mean that I didn't know who I was when I made them? I think Kierkegaard said that life is lived forward and understood backwards. You become your best self as you live.


I had somewhat related thoughts on IACS. As I was reading the book, I couldn't help but think of _Clarissa_ or _The Princess of Cleves_ since to be in love was to be in thrall/slavery (as one scholar has said). It seems to me the same sort of theme is in play when Charlotte loses herself in the course of the book as she actually does eventually lose control in her "relationship" with Hoyt. There are other instances (the ending, for instance) where Charlotte begins to let go of the her self and the idea of the self.

The rest of my take on it (at least my take from a few months ago) is posted at my blog (August 21, 2005) if you're interested.

(Interesting blog, btw.)

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