The Pump House Gang by Tom Wolfe
New York : Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1968. First Edition. Hardcover. 309 pages ; 22 cm. $5.95 dust jacket with minimal wear. Pages are clean and unmarked. Binding is firm.
A young man of many talents burst upon the literary scene three years ago with a book called The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby, and the result was a revolution in the reporting of American popular culture. Since that time Tom Wolfe has been doing field work among many noble savages (from La Jolla to London) in search of new lifestyles. He has here gathered the results, a collection of essays on the way we live now, written with all the insight, perceptiveness and stylistic panache of his first book.
Running throughout The Pump House Gang is the central theme of most of Tom Wolfe's writing: Status. Much of the book deals with a surprising phenomenon in contemporary life: a determined retreat from conventional social hierarchies that Tom Wolfe calls "starting your own league." Surfers, motorcyclists, lumpen-dandies and . . . yes . . . stay-at-homes (see "The King of the Status Drop-Outs")—everybody's doing it. Except for die-hards in the crumbling old social worlds of New York and London, where the confusion is so great (see "Bob and Spike" and "The Mid-Atlantic Man") that nobody can tell whether this is really the path to the top they've taken or just the service elevator.
Dazzlingly brilliant as a stylist, daringly provocative as a commentator, and always entertaining, Tom Wolfe is in his new book quite thoroughly . . . himself. He is at his best with the Pump House Gang, a remarkable surfing elite—who reappear briefly in a book published simultaneously with this one, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, about the adventures of Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, the rise of the psychedelic life style in America, and the founding of a bizarre new religion. In the midst of it all, many members of the redoubtable Pump House Gang become indoor sports—happily freaking out in pads rather than wiping out in the surf, but with the same unique Pump House Gang flair.
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