Friday, September 04, 2009
Tom Wolfe: The rich do have feelings - and he should know
The Tom Wolfe short story that extravagantly kicked off Geordie Greig's editorship of the London Evening Standard several weeks ago has proved to be upwardly mobile by migrating to Vanity Fair.
The Rich Have Feelings, Too is a wanly satirical monologue on all those poor rich CEO financiers who've cost taxpayers billions in whichever currency and been tragically reduced by the recession to flying with the "commercial-aviation herd" after yonks of coking it on private jets.
"We would be lounging lushly in what was designed as a living room, not an airplane cabin," the writer nostalgically recalls of former Learjet heaven. "There were mahogany, walnut, and amboyna inlays all over the place … You never had to sit next to anybody. You had your own virtual easy chair and all the legroom in the world … and cantilevered tabletops made of the same rich, spectacularly grained woods." [Pause to dab eyebags]
If there's a lack of Swiftian rage at this excess - as opposed to a lipsmacking curiosity about how the rich live - then may be that's because Wolfe, who's forever white-suited, is closer to the spirit of his fallen financiers than his fiction might lead us to believe. Commenter MikeyCee recalls on the Wall Street Journal blog The Wealth Report: "Tom Wolfe cannot talk about eccentric rich people, he’s one too. I know someone who customized Wolfe’s Cadillac. He had them do everything in white including the whole interior [for $7,500]. Pretty cool but still a bit over the top."
Yes indeed. Wolfe a little out of touch with the zeitgeist? Commenter King Cash on the same blog answers that with this: "I once heard [Wolfe] go on and on how punk music originated in England to prove a point he was arguing. Sorry, Tom, that you never took a cab to CBGBs [NY] in the time. It was under your nose." Along with the rest of real life.