Xiyun Yang, English 171, Sages and Satirists, Brown University, 2003
Tom Wolfe's brand of new journalism is a far cry from the steady, uninflected prose of the conventional press media. In his 1980 bestseller
Just two years ago he had been captured in the jungles of Africa, separated from his mother, shipped in a cage to a goddamned desert in New Mexico, kept prisoner, prodded and shocked by a bunch of humans in white smocks, and here he was, back in a compound where they had been zapping him through their fucking drills for a solid month, and suddenly there was a whole new mob of humans on hand! Even worse than the white smocks! Louder! Crazier! Totally out of their gourds! Yammering, roaring, brawling, exploding lights beside their bug-eyed skulls! Suppose they threw him to these assholes! Fuck
Wolfe closes the narrative distance between the reader and the ape by transporting the ape's emotion to the reader with a single exclamation mark. The reader is suddenly in the ape's head. Later on, Wolfe transports the reader into the collective consciousness of the Edwards pilots.
Perhaps the ape would go to the White House and get a medal. (Why not!) Perhaps the ape would address the September meeting of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots inLos Angeles. (Why no! -- another
How has Wolfe legitimized speaking from the head of an ape? Or has he legitimized it? What does this do to his ethos? Why does he speak from the Ham's perspective to begin with?
What are the effects of diving into and out of so many, and at times conflicting, perspectives? Why does he do this?
One of the themes of the book is the media's power to mold reality. By telling the story in narrative form, Wolfe has created his own reality for the reader. How would Wolfe respond to this?
Last modified 16 November 2003