THE PURPLE DECADES-A READER
Not too many readers would agree with Joe David Bellamy (who provides the introduction here) that Tom Wolfe's New Journalism offers "the definitive, comprehensive, tuned-in portrait of our age." In fact, a reprint collection like this--with Wolfe's hyped-up style and waspish tone changing so little from subculture to subculture, from decade to decade--tends to suggest that the New Journalism offers more insight into the new journalists than it does into their supposed subject-matters. Still, there can be little argument with Bellamy's assertion that the major Wolfe contribution to cultural self-awareness has been "his emphasis on the hidden and sometimes peculiar manifestations of status-seeking in American life." And, for those eager to sample or re-sample Wolfe's satires, there's a fair sampling here: six pieces from The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamlined Baby (1965), with stock-car racing, Greenwich Village, and Baby Jane Holzer; a trio from The Pump House Gang (1968), including the well-known portrait of the social-climbing Sculls; Radical Chic, of course; "the Me Decade" (est, etc.); and briefer selections from recent books. Best on fads, weaker when matters of substance intrude: a representative Wolfe parade--and a feast for nostalgic trend-watchers.