Tom Wolfe and the New Vulgarians

Tom Wolfe

is on form, and writing about hedge-fund managers. Apparently they’re "even

coarser and ruder than their predecessors could have ever imagined being,"

but you knew that.

Only Tom Wolfe would accept such an assignment and then, as far as I can tell,

never talk to a single hedge-fund manager – instead talking to

the old money which is disgusted by the vulgarity of the new. And then write

a piece with passages of sheer genius:

He suddenly turned his head away from her. Something had caught his eye.

“Nice voz. Tiffany, right?”

It took her a moment to realize he meant “vase,” the vase on a

little table in the entry gallery. Why he had pronounced it the French way

she couldn’t imagine. She answered in a toneless voice, “No, I

don’t think so.” In fact, it was older and considerably more precious

than a Tif-fany, but she hadn’t the faintest desire to prolong the conversation

with any discussion of the higher ceramics.

The article works as a series of high-finance blind items: which hedge-fund

manager got pwned by a teenage hockey player from Port Chester – and a

girl, to boot? Which other hedge-fund manager clipped a six-figure check to

the first page of a private-school application, thereby guaranteeing his rejection?

Which hedge-fund manager’s wife insisted on their child being borne by a surrogate

mother, to save her "personal-trainer-sculpted boy-with-breasts body"

from the physical consequences of childbirth?

The article also works as a rather more subtle indictment of those who would

consider a seat on the board of the New York Public Library the highest attainment

of humankind, or who shudder at the very thought of people "who hold meetings

with their shirttails hanging outside their jeans, like college boys".

Sometimes, the war between the old millionaires and the new billionaires is

one of those fights you really want both sides to lose. But then you realize

that if it didn’t exist, Tom Wolfe couldn’t write about it. And that really

would be a shame.

(By the way, does Merrill Lynch really have a 41-story building in Times Square?

And, does Annie Leibowitz’s photo of Tom Wolfe at the top of the article remind

you of the photo which

became the drawing at the top of this column? Ach, never mind.)

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3 Responses to Tom Wolfe and the New Vulgarians

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