Few books of our own era would make it onto my desert island list; one is Tom Wolfe’s Radical Chic and Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers. While I’m late getting to Michael Lewis’s new profile of Wolfe, it’s reason enough to renew a Vanity Fair subscription, especially the priceless story of how Wolfe rewrote his dissertation on status jockeying among 1930s literary leftists after Yale turned it down as “tendentious” and “disparaging” to its oft-lionized subjects.
Early in my time at the Manhattan Institute, after Wolfe’s New York novel The Bonfire of the Vanities had made a gigantic popular success, I put together a roundtable on “Today and Tomorrow in Tom Wolfe’s New York” with Terry Teachout, Richard Vigilante, the late Walter Wriston, and others. MI published it as an envelope stuffer one-off with, if memory serves, a cover letter in which Wolfe himself mentioned observations the various participants had made, but in his own words. Not to say I was awe-struck at this, but for the next few days I wandered the streets of New York talking to the trees.