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Beginning to See the LightSex, Hope, and Rock-and-Roll$
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Ellen Willis

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780816680788

Published to Minnesota Scholarship Online: August 2015

DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816680788.001.0001

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Tom Wolfe’s Failed Optimism

Tom Wolfe’s Failed Optimism

Chapter:
(p.80) Tom Wolfe’s Failed Optimism
Source:
Beginning to See the Light
Author(s):

Ellen Willis

Publisher:
University of Minnesota Press
DOI:10.5749/minnesota/9780816680788.003.0010

This chapter presents the author’s reflections about various works of Tom Wolfe. In the book The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby, Wolfe pulled off the remarkable feat of not only describing but embodying pop consciousness in print. In contrast, his second collection, The Pump House Gang, fell curiously flat. It was full of repetitious variations on the proliferation-of-styles theme, which in 1968 was no longer either new or neglected. Moreover, Wolfe’s enthusiasm seemed forced, his rhetorical devices mechanical, as if he himself were bored with it all. The author considers The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test as the best book to come out of the sixties. Acid Test is about the whole sticky problem of optimism, of how to pursue the elusive synthesis. What makes the book so powerful—and so brave—was the way Wolfe allowed the Pranksters’ vision to challenge and stretch his own.

Keywords:   Tom Wolfe, The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby, The Pump House Gang, pop consciousness, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test

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