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Sunday, May 20, 2018

From Tom Wolfe’s 1976 essay, “The Intelligent Coed’s Guide to America”

Re-posted by Nicholas Stix

[See also, at WEJB/NSU:

“Tom Wolfe was Our Zola, Our Trollope, and … Our Mencken: An Appreciation.”]
 

From Tom Wolfe’s 1976 essay, “The Intelligent Coed’s Guide to America”
Via Scurvy Oaks

“The next thing I knew, the discussion was onto the subject of fascism in America. Everybody was talking about police repression and the anxiety and paranoia as good folks waited for the knock on the door and the descent of the knout on the nape of the neck. I couldn’t make any sense out of it. I had just made a tour of the country to write a series called “The New Life Out There” for New York magazine. This was the mid-1960’s. The post-World War II boom had by now pumped money into every level of the population on a scale unparalleled in any nation in history. Not only that, the folks were running wilder and freer than any people in history. For that matter, Krassner himself, in one of the strokes of exuberance for which he was well known, was soon to publish a slight hoax: an account of how Lyndon Johnson was so overjoyed about becoming President that he had buggered a wound in the neck of John F. Kennedy on Air Force One as Kennedy’s body was being flown back from Dallas. Krassner presented this as a suppressed chapter from William Manchester’s book Death of a President. Johnson, of course, was still President when it came out. Yet the merciless gestapo dragnet missed Krassner, who cleverly hid out onstage at Princeton on Saturday nights.

Suddenly I heard myself blurting out over my microphone: “My God, what are you talking about? We’re in the middle of a … Happiness Explosion!”

That merely sounded idiotic. The kid up in the balcony did the crying baby.
The kid down below did the raccoon … Krakatoa, East of Java … I disappeared in a tidal wave of rude sounds … Back to the goon squads, search-and-seize and roust-a-daddy …

Support came from a quarter I hadn’t counted on. It was Grass, speaking in English.

“For the past hour I have my eyes fixed on the doors here,” he said. “You talk about fascism and police repression. In Germany when I was a student, they come through those doors long ago. Here they must be very slow.”

Grass was enjoying himself for the first time all evening. He was not simply saying, “You really don’t have so much to worry about.” He was indulging his sense of the absurd. He was saying: “You American intellectuals—you want so desperately to feel besieged and persecuted!”

He sounded like Jean-François Revel, a French socialist writer who talks about one of the great unexplained phenomena of modern astronomy: namely, that the dark night of fascism is always descending in the United States and yet lands only in Europe.”


3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Krakatoa actually west of Java.

Anonymous said...

The idea of fascism almost at hand in the U.S. is mostly in the fevered minds of predominantly a group a Jewish intellectuals. See Nazi everywhere. Nicholas knows.

Anonymous said...

The irony is that these days the Right is falling into exactly the same trap of Wolfe wrote, seeing "fascism" everywhere in America and recklessly conflating it with liberalism. See Jonah Goldberg, Dinesh D'Souza, etc.