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I Am Charlotte Simmons | [Tom Wolfe]

I Am Charlotte Simmons

Dupont University: the Olympian halls of learning housing the cream of America's youth, the roseate Gothic spires and manicured lawns suffused with tradition....Or so it appears to beautiful, brilliant Charlotte Simmons, a sheltered freshman from North Carolina, who has come here on full scholarship. But Charlotte soon learns, to her mounting dismay, that for the upper-crust coeds of Dupont, sex, Cool, and kegs trump academic achievement every time.
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Publisher's Summary

Dupont University: the Olympian halls of learning housing the cream of America's youth, the roseate Gothic spires and manicured lawns suffused with tradition....Or so it appears to beautiful, brilliant Charlotte Simmons, a sheltered freshman from North Carolina, who has come here on full scholarship. But Charlotte soon learns, to her mounting dismay, that for the upper-crust coeds of Dupont, sex, Cool, and kegs trump academic achievement every time.

As Charlotte encounters Dupont's privileged elite, her roommate, Beverly, a fleshy, Groton-educated Brahmin in lusty pursuit of lacrosse players; Jojo Johanssen, the only white starting player on Dupont's god-like basketball team, whose position is threatened by a hotshot black freshman from the projects; the Young Turn of Saint Ray fraternity, Hoyt Thorpe, whose heady sense of entitlement and social domination is clinched by his accidental brawl with a bodyguard for the governor of California; and Adam Geller, one of the Millennial Mutants who run the university's "independent" newspaper and who consider themselves the last bastion of intellectual endeavor on the sex-crazed, jock-obsessed campus, she gains a new, revelatory sense of her own power, that of her difference and of her very innocence, but little does she realize that she will act as a catalyst in all of their lives.

With his signature eye for detail, Tom Wolfe draws on extensive observation of campuses across the country to immortalize college life in the '00s. I Am Charlotte Simmons is the much-anticipated triumph of America's master chronicler.

©2004 Tom Wolfe; (P)2004 Audio Renaissance, a division of Holtzbrinck Publishers LLC

What the Critics Say

  • Audie Award Finalist, Fiction (unabridged), 2005

"Like everything Wolfe writes, I Am Charlotte Simmons grabs your interest at the outset and saps the desire to do anything else until you finish." (The New York Times Book Review)
"The book is brilliant, wicked, true, and, like everything Wolfe writes, thematically coherent, cunningly well plotted, and delightfully told." (Atlantic Monthly)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.6 (695 )
5 star
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Overall
3.5 (166 )
5 star
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4 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Story
4.1 (159 )
5 star
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4 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Eric San Diego, CA, USA 11-18-04
    Eric San Diego, CA, USA 11-18-04
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Decadence through the eyes of a ?good girl?"

    The account of college life in this book is as authentic as it can be. In order to be so true-to-life, though, it has to be very vulgar. Do not read this book if you intend on avoiding foul language and extreme sexual content?it is filled with both. The sex is not very steamy or erotic either; it is as unromantic as can be, just like it is on campus. ?Charlotte Simmons? is a thorough survey of the most self-destructive and immoral environment imaginable?the modern university.

    If one can bear the vulgarity and decadence, one will be treated to superb story telling and a fine display of literary genius. Wolfe combines the bland, vulgar statements of the characters with his own witty and enlightening additions. His commentary makes the foolish characters somewhat coherent to the non-college student and provides some insight into the reasons for this dismal state of affairs.

    Most of all, however, Wolfe sticks to description of characters and events and draws the audience in with the most colorful word manipulation. The audience is compelled to root for the good girl even as her path takes her further into trouble. Indeed, the innocent protagonist does not figure out a way to avoid being contaminated by the dirty culture. But even through this painful fall, the audience receives a great tool in figuring out what goes on at college and perhaps that is all one needs to invent their own way of dealing with the challenges such an environment presents.

    71 of 76 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alain santa Fe, NM, United States 04-26-10
    Alain santa Fe, NM, United States 04-26-10 Member Since 2005

    professor. like great and VERY good books, fiction and history, mainly

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Disappointing"

    Silly story of shallow college life. After the wonderful Bonfire, this is truly a disappointment.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Charles Atkinson Greensboro, NC, United States 10-01-05
    Charles Atkinson Greensboro, NC, United States 10-01-05 Member Since 2005

    A few must reads: Mr. Mercedes, Narrows Gate, Cop Town, Bomb Proof, Wayfaring Stranger, The Son (Nesbo), Dept Q series...

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Charlotte Is Worth Getting To Know"

    Audible.com Read (Most Excellently) by Dylan Baker

    Just finished Tom Wolfe's latest classic, I Am Charlotte Simmons two weeks ago. Again I listened to this one on an MP3 from Audible. Incredibly funny and relevant, perhaps too much so.

    The story is about the beautiful, genius and naive? student from Sparta, NC, (Charlotte Simmons), experiences in her first year at an Ivy League caliber school in Pa. The novel exposes the absurdity of today's amoral campus life and the lower standards of the higher echelon of academia.

    At the end of the audible version of the book, Wolfe is interviewed about his research. This is where it gets personal. He spent a lot of time interviewing students at Stanford, a little at several Ivy League campuses and over a month at UNC-CH! My 19 year old daughter is a frosh at Carolina.

    To be fair, Carolina has a prof who is country's leading authority on slang. Still, the 74 year old explored the sexual and substance excesses at Carolina and found an alarming ambivalence in its students. For instance, a large part of the book explores the foolishness of co-ed living. Lander lives in a Co-ed dorm where every other suite is inhabited by guys.

    Think about it. Where in adult life do men and women who are complete strangers live together in such intimate and lecherous surroundings? Such a lifestyle does nothing to prepare students for life. Yet it is the universally accepted form of student housing across the country.

    Nevertheless, it was an incredible ride through a wonderful girl's freshman year.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Steven Reno, NV, USA 12-20-04
    Steven Reno, NV, USA 12-20-04
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    "Phenomenal"

    This is the best production of an audio book I have heard. Excellent audio quality, fantastic characterization of the protagonist by the reader, and excellent story all add up to make this a great audio book.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gene Agoura Hills, CA, USA 11-28-04
    Gene Agoura Hills, CA, USA 11-28-04
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    "Tom Wolfe Delivers"

    I would have liked to give this 3+ stars; it doesn't quite meet my four-star criteria, but three stars would be an injustice. It's a well-written update on college life, as a small-town girl collides with a major university. This is not Tom Wolfe at his best or funniest, but it is thought-provoking and fun. If there is anyone left who is bothered by bad language, this will bother them. The reading is very well done.

    13 of 16 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rachelle Dundurn, SK, Canada 08-22-09
    Rachelle Dundurn, SK, Canada 08-22-09 Member Since 2008
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    "Geesh. Really?"

    I'm not sure if it's the narration or what, but I was totally put off by this book.

    That said, I bought it because it was a long book, which I needed in order to kill a long car trip, and it did that, at least.

    Still, I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone I actually liked, and it's not one I'll listen to more than once.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    neil FORT PIERCE, FL, United States 07-30-09
    neil FORT PIERCE, FL, United States 07-30-09 Member Since 2008
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    "An American Classic"

    This wasn't the easiest book. At some points, I
    felt rather uncomfortable with the story. Just goes
    to show you...the generation gap is real. Especially lately. But, discomfort and angst, nowwithstanding, this book seems to me to be very important, a literate chronical of its time.
    If you hate hearing foul language, think twice before you listen to it. The "f" word and its
    siblings seem to make up 20% of the dialogue.
    But, Wolf said he tried for authenticity. What
    is more painful, if the writer is accurate, is
    how our poor English language has been reduced
    and mangled in, of all places, our palaces of
    "higher learning". Anyone who thinks today's
    kids are smarter than ever should read this book.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ellen Kansas City, MO, United States 04-08-09
    Ellen Kansas City, MO, United States 04-08-09 Member Since 2001
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    "A rare miss for Wolfe"

    I love, love, love, Wolfe's essays and criticism, but alas, this book was a disappointment because Wolfe gets young women so completely, absolutely wrong.

    He gets the young college women in wrong in so may ways. Where do I start?

    Let's start with the wealthy roommates who are all "I HAVE to hook up with an athlete tonight!" I am going to be bold like Wolfe in his essays and go out on a limb and skewer a sacred belief right now. These young women who act like they are into sex for sex's sake, it is a lie. Wolfe paints the roommate character as wishing to drink and hook up for a good time's sake. It would be more realistic if the roommate character were portrayed as being extremely insecure instead of ruthless partiers. These young women drink to dull the feelings of low self-esteem, and to give themselves an "out" if they do meet a guy and hook up. I think they drink to escape all that noise in their head about judgment. Also, women like the roommate character are actually nicer to the Charlottes of the world than Wolfe portrays. Meanwhile, the Charlotte character is so haughty and self-righteous I wanted to smack her. In real life, the Charlottes of the world are way too savvy to be the goody-goody Charlotte acted like. I don't think there are any women on Earth as innocent, clueless, and un-savvy as Wolfe portrays Charlotte, and yet neither are there any as ruthlessly testosterone-driven (or if you will, sex-pursuing-for-its-own-sake) as Wolfe portrays the party girls. Read "Confessions of a Video Vixen" for how party girls really feel. They know they are being used and caught in a desperation cycle of low self-esteem and they have self-knowledge about it. I don't know how to explain all the ways Wolfe got young women wrong, but it just all feels off. Charlotte would know better than to moon around being such a sad sack. And the basketball guy would not fall for her, either

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Christina Harlingen, TX, United States 11-21-04
    Christina Harlingen, TX, United States 11-21-04 Member Since 2004

    I study native plants, do revegetation projects, edit a newsletter, keep databases for clubs I belong to, and photograph (mostly plants).

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "looking back and forward"

    Reading this book helps a little, I think, in understanding the peer pressures my daughter is facing in college. My husband benefited somewhat from the hours I spent listening to the book, in that the long passages concerning sex are pretty effective. The reader does an excellent job with all the male voices. I would've enjoyed hearing another voice, however, for most of the females. The reader's vocal range is limited to unpleasant female voices, in my opinion.
    In contrast to the fictional difficulties Charlotte Simmons faces, I hope colleges are doing a better job of providing moral support to incoming students, especially those with very limited financial resources.

    8 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    karen United States 12-27-04
    karen United States 12-27-04 Member Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Academy award for reader Dylan Baker"

    If Oscars were given for acting out books, Baker would go home with the golden statue -- he's great. Just great. With so many different people populating this book -- Southern homefolk, Boston elite, Jewish professors, black athletes, little-guy reporters -- it was nothing short of fascinating to realize how much you learned about each character from just listening to them speak -- through Baker, of course. Very well done.

    That said, this was one of the few books I've ever encountered that shoulda been shorter, by about a third. We are treated to three separate episodes of play-by-play basketball, which maybe some sports nuts loved, but got intensly boring after just a few minutes. And some of the love -- make that sex -- scenes were disgusting and way overdone, even though one has to suppose that writing these sex and sport scenes must have been great fun for Wolfe. If I'd been reading the book, I would have skipped ahead, but with an audio book, you have no way of knowing how long it's going to continue.

    None of this should deter you from experiencing this book, in one format or another. "Charlotte" is a very very good book, and one that surely will cause some heartburn among the denizens of the hallowed halls of ivy. It's surely one of those situations in which a book of fiction will bring about more reform, long run, than a dry, academic critique ever could.

    Read it, or listen to it, but don't miss "I Am Charlotte Simmons".

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
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