Monday, July 9, 2012

An Open Letter to Tom Wolfe

Dear Tom,
How are you?  I am fine.  I must say, though, I’m a little miffed you haven’t answered my letter of the 25th in which I inquired about apparent inconsistencies between the “gangbang” scene in your book, Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, and the one in Hunter S. Thompson’s, Hells Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga.  Something tells me (and it’s the Hells Angels book) that the rape scene didn’t take place at Ken Kesey’s ranch in La Honda as your book maintained, but at another party attended by the Hell’s Angels and not the Merry Pranksters.  I’m not upset though.  It was rude of you not to return my letter, but I understand why you would shy away from such a sensitive topic.  You probably assumed that after forty years no one would catch your mistake, or perhaps you thought no one would waste valuable time on so trivial a matter.  Well, you were wrong! 

So.  What’s new?  Still wearing those white suits? 

Oh, I know what I wanted to ask you.  Do you remember that famous spat you had with John Updike, Norman Mailer, and John Irving?  You know, you made the argument in your famous 1973 essay “Stalking the Billion-Footed Beast” that literary or imaginative fiction was dead, and you championed the rise of New Journalism to replace it.  They called you names.  You called them your “three stooges.”  Whatever happened with that?  Did you guys ever make up? 

To be honest, I never understood what the problem was.  Some of Mailer’s best work could be classified as New Journalism and Updike’s fiction was so boring it might as well have been true.  Then there’s Irving.  You famously criticized one of his books by pointing out a scene set along a real-life highway out in California or somewhere; you suggested that he should, rather than suffocating under imagined contrivances, pull over to the side of the road and write about the $20,000 Palomino horses that actually reside at that location.  I always wondered what would have happened if he had taken your advice.  How would he have weaved those horses into a story about transvestite Belgian prostitutes who are also bears?

I suppose you know by now that Updike and Mailer have been dead for several years.  I hear Irving is still alive.  Why don’t you two get together and hug it out?  You might even team up to write a book together.  Judging by each of your last few efforts, it couldn’t hurt.  Am I right?  You guys might even finish that book about the Palomino horses.  Just a suggestion.  

By the way, how did that New Journalism thing turn out?  Has fiction become obsolete yet?  Seriously, I don’t know since I only read books that are at least thirty years old.  I just took a gander at the NY Times bestseller lists, both fiction and nonfiction, and I can’t really tell by the titles.  Is The Lost Symbol reality driven?  What about Glenn Beck’s Arguing with Idiots?  I have to assume that guy’s deeply in touch with reality.  What do you think? 

On a related topic, I’m writing a book right now that I think could crack the nonfiction top ten.  It’s called Politics Shmolitics: Why Everyone is Dangerously Wrong but Me.  It really is a devastating criticism of everyone else.  You’d like it.  If that doesn’t sell, I figured I’d learn from the bestseller lists.  How about a book in which right wing ideology liberates Vatican City from the papists?  I’d call it Arguing with Lost Symbols. 

Well, that’s all for now.  Let me know if you want to buy any of my ideas.  As an elderly person, I imagine your own well of creativity must be pretty close to all dried up by now, but I still have, like, six ideas per day.  John Irving has already contacted me about that Vatican City idea.  He wanted to know if I would mind dressing the main character up in a bear suit.  I’m just saying…    

Your Pal,

Purvis McGrew

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