- The Washington Times - Monday, January 29, 2001

A writer with style

"If Tom Wolfe is not our best known and most accomplished man of letters, then who is? In the '60s he virtually invented a new kind of newspaper writing. In the '70s, though he still wrote only nonfiction, he said the American novel had become precious and airy, but a marriage with journalism would revive it. In the '80s he wrote 'The Bonfire of the Vanities,' and proved his point… . Meanwhile, whatever the reason, he upset some other men of letters. Norman Mailer, John Updike and John Irving all insisted Wolfe was only a journalist, and not a real novelist like any of them. In a way they were half right. Wolfe is both a novelist and a journalist… .

"Wolfe, at 69, is affable, approachable and very recognizable. He has often been described as a dandy, and in news photographs he is usually seen in a white or an off-white suit… . To dress as Wolfe does requires both a fair amount of effort and a highly developed taste. The clothes style is like the prose style. On someone else, a white suit in winter, like a sentence with italics or ellipses, would be an affectation. But on Wolfe it is appropriate and right, and while he may be a dandy, he is never an exquisite."

John Corry, writing on "Hooking Up With Tom Wolfe," in the February issue of the American Spectator

Boring temptation

"All those organizations with the word 'family' in their names can relax. The Fox network's new 'Temptation Island' is no threat to the American republic, the institution of marriage or the morals of our young. The first episode was, however, a terrible waste of an hour… . [It] featured bikinis, shorts and a few naughty comments, but on the whole, the show was tamer than 'Baywatch' and the cast, it has to be said, are not as good-looking.

"To be sure, the initial episode was set up as a teaser, but the same, I suspect, will prove to be true for the rest of a series that is likely to pack about as much erotic excitement as an MTV beach volleyball special …

"Watching 'Temptation Island' will be much like witnessing someone else's marriage-counseling sessions, and about as enlightening. Sartre was wrong: Hell is not other people, it is other people's problems."

Andrew Stuttaford, writing on "The Untempting Temptation," in the Feb. 5 issue of the National Review

The 'R-word'

"According to attorney general-in-waiting John Ashcroft, no one need worry that his past actions or present beliefs will interfere with his professional integrity. If, he says, his personal convictions should come into conflict with, say, the Constitution, the Constitution need not fear because of what Ashcroft calls his 'faith heritage, which requires me to enforce the law.'

"While many of us were relieved to hear something would require the attorney general to uphold the law, I cannot help but wonder, what in the world is a 'faith heritage'? Is it a magazine, like American Heritage? Is it a lovely pop singer, like Faith Hill? …

"No, one must assume that 'faith heritage' is yet another entry on a growing list of terms people use when they don't want to say 'religion.' Terms like 'faith-based organization' or 'spirituality-based programs.' Both of these were used with alarming regularity during the presidential campaigns, in discussions about potential providers of services such as child care and education. Some of us found this New Age vagueness fairly irritating… .

"But lately, many people have been reluctant to use 'religion,' a force that has shaped human experience as surely as politics, economics and sex. Government officials have, of course, a special reason for avoiding the R-word, as it so often leads to the C-word that would be church from which the state is officially separated, pending divorce."

Mary McNamara, writing on "Are Politicians Hiding Behind Terms Like 'Faith Heritage' to Avoid Stigma?" Jan. 19 in the Los Angeles Times

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