Johnson to Wolfe; Wolfe to Johnson by Allison Zimmer


Samuel Johnson to Tom Wolfe

Passage from Johnson's Rambler No. 182 beginning with the paragraph "One of the most indefatigable" and ending with "married him in the morning."

Translation of above passage to Wolfe's prose:

My buddy Levi! The guy is a serial dater, a real gold-digger, but brilliant. He wants to find a girl who can make him into something, give him nice food and all the latest styles and the best wine you've ever gotten drunk off of. And why shouldn't he expect it all? He's got spark, and he's witty and charming — but poor guy, all his latest efforts have gotten him real screwed, launching him all the way back to square one. Girls today are so fickle, cuddling all close to him and promising the world, and then changing their minds in a split second. I mean, why can't they recognize a catch when its right in front of their eyes, ready and willing to marry and commit?

First there was Lucy Porter, his boss's daughter, a real cute little teenager, just past puberty, and who can resist that kind of innocence? She got real attached — she was a virgin at the time, after all, and you know how that goes. Levi started getting kind of annoyed, what with the Oooh Baby Baby, I Love You all the time and the cheesy love notes and the tears when he forgot their week-and-a-half anniversary, and all the suffering wasn't even worth it, because she wasn't even that loaded. She died before the wedding date, totally conked out all mysteriously, but the real tragedy was averted, since Levi didn't have to marry her after all. He moved on pretty quick — the guy was anxious, naturally, ready to live the moneyed life. He went to all the hottest bars, the ones where the girls all have Daddy's credit card in their Italian leather wallets. Girls there are sexy: blond and thin from all their Pilates workouts, and God, they must have practically billions in the bank, just sitting there and waiting for them to buy a huge house out in Connecticut and go skiing every weekend or something. Levi had to show them he knew the drill, knew all about Nobu and Rodeo Drive and that high society life, and he's a real good actor so he tricked them real well. He found this girl, Samantha Davis, who wasn't the prettiest thing ever but she definitely had money coming out of her ears, and on that first night she gave him a ride home in her chauffeured Bentley. A Bentley!

Then it turned out the bitch didn't even want to get married, she was just using Levi for all the attention he gave her and the loyalty he offered her, and then she turned around and stabbed him in the back when she married some pathetic Harvard doctor she had only known for a night. Levi man! After all your loyalty and honesty, that's how they treat you?

Tom Wolfe to Samuel Johnson

Passage from Wolfe's "The Pump House Gang," Bnginning with the paragraph that starts on page 38 "But how many Bruce Browns can there be" and ending with "inching down the sidewalk away from the old Pump House stairs?"

Tom Wolfe into Samuel Johnson:

It is a truth universally recognized, that while we naturally understand the principles of age maturation, we consider ourselves immune to the isolation of growing old. Those who once mocked an older generation will indeed one day reach the age that they fear, should they continue living, as the natural order of life has been known to exist. So it is with the young population of surfers who loiter around the La Jolla beaches, imagining themselves victors in a fabricated contest between the old and the young, the experienced and the inexperienced, choosing an existence that will be closed to them once they have lived for 25 years. These men and women, carelessly indulging in selfish pleasures, without a thought toward the nature of the world, or the need for service, conviction, or intellect, live their days in a lying stupor.

It is one's hope that one day the La Jolla youth will become enlightened on the error of their ways, recognizing age as a natural process, believing that those who are older are more worthy of the respect of the population because of their wisdom and experience, yet the errors in thought have continued with age. Men still waste their days idling, rotting in the sun as they near the age of 25, believing themselves free from nature's demands. A young man clings to a woman as if time is of an endless supply; a young woman gives sour looks to her neighbors; another woman gazes at the sea contemplating useless absurdities, and the boys never lose their thirst for endless adventure and pleasure. With ignorance like this, it is inevitable that one day these children will be eliminated from their social networks, turned away because of age and pity; and yet still the youth continue their na•ve rampages, drawn to the eternally bright sun as a sign of pleasure and infinity, forgetting the temporariness of all existence.

Among other wretched ironies in the youthful population is the failure to view the past as a lesson in the nature of their errors. It was Aristotle who once noted, "If you would understand anything, observe its beginning and its development." But though two former La Jolla surfers grew so fearful of aging as to claim their own lives, the youth today are blind to the importance of history, denying their role in the event. Believing in the eternity of play, they think themselves protected from inevitability, and still they view their lives as solid things, neglecting the paths of those before them, of mortal limitations and responsibility.


Victorian Web Overview Victorian courses

2 October 2007