Friday, November 2, 2018

Answer to Irene, Part Last


Finally. Well, finally, I have other things to talk about besides just books. Books are important, but so are a lot of other things. I wish I had 30 hours in every day and more talent and then I could do everything I want to do (and I’m sure I’m the first person who’s thought this).

I did just finish reading something, though. It was by Tom Wolfe and the title is Radical Chic & Mau -Mauing the Flak Catchers. Awesome title, right? The title alone made me want to read this.

Y’all know Tom Wolfe. He’s probably best known for writing The Right Stuff and Bonfire of the Vanities. Always wore a white suit. He reminded me of Hal Holbrook, for some reason (although Holbrook is more handsome). Anyway, he died last May at the age of 88. 

This book is actually a pairing of two long-form articles that Wolfe wrote. The first, which appeared in New York Magazine in 1970 was called “These Radical Chic Evenings” (Wolfe coined the phrase “radical chic” in this article). It was about a party thrown by Leonard Bernstein and his wife for the Black Panthers and is amazing because he rips just about everyone who was at the party to shreds. Halfway through the book I was amazed I’d ever heard of Tom Wolfe — this article had to have made him a ton of very important enemies. 

Basically, Wolfe describes the “radical chic” — the guests at the Bernsteins’ party. These included  people like director Otto Preminger, Barbara Walters, and a host of wealthy socialites. They were meeting with a leader of the Black Panthers to discuss ways to help their cause. White liberal guilt, you see.  Wolfe is an amazing writer and I had to laugh out loud at the way he describes the party goers and their bizarre form of virtue signaling (a phrase Wolfe should have invented).

“Mau-Mauing the Flak catchers” describes the goings on at the Office of Economic Opportunity ain San Francisco. “Mau-Mauing comes from the Mau-Mau Rebellion in Kenya and basically means intimidating. The flak-catchers are the mid-level bureaucrats whose main function is to take abuse from the young blacks and Samoans who are supposed to benefit from the economic programs administered by the flak -catchers.  It was good, but I liked the first article more — because it was so shocking, I guess. I don’t know if Mau-Mauing the Flak Catcherswas shocking in its day but it’s kind of accepted practice these days.

The book is not too long — about 150 pages — and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I don’t think I would have wanted to know Wolfe — he obviously was not shy about putting his cquaintances into his writing — but I did enjoy reading him. This was the second Wolfe book that I’ve read — he wrote a few novels and I read one: A Man in Full — I wasn’t really a fan. I do want to read some more of his nonfiction, though.

And I want to write about contemporary Christian music lyrics, too. Maybe tomorrow.

More later...


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