Words About Tom Wolfe

May 27 2018

To my mind, Michael Lewis, no mean stylist himself, wrote the best summation of Tom Wolfe when he went through Wolfe's papers at the New York Public Library and then visited the man in 2015. Read his full report from Vanity Fair.

Most memorable was Lewis' unearthing of Wolfe tidbits from the archives.

A letter to his mother and father:

I hate to say this but David McDaniel is the most devlish looking and the most devlish acting person I've ever seen. He looks like the typical "comic book" Jap. He is short--not over 4'2"--has a very, very, very, very short monkey's shave--high cheekbones--squinted eyes--wears glasses--a stubby nose--a toothy grin--and to top it all, he actually has pointed teeth!!!!!!!!!!!! He is as mean as he can be, he has no consideration for anyone, he acts spoiled to death. he is terribly babyish, unhumanly babyish for anyone 12 years old. This is what he looks like [see drawing on page 185, top right] ... The description and drawing seem terribly exaggerated I know, but every bit of it is true--and the picture is one of the most perfect likenesses I've ever drawn.

Written when Wolfe was twelve years old. (or should I have written... twelve years old!!!!!!)

And an excerpt from Wolfe's initially rejected Yale thesis:

At one point 'the Cuban delegation' tramped in. It was led by a fierce young woman named Lola de la Torriente. With her bobbed hair, leather jacket, and flat-heeled shoes, she looked as though she had just left the barricades. Apparently she had. 'This is where our literature is being built,' exclaimed she, 'on the barricades!'

Lewis accurately and delightfully concludes:

Which is to say that, as a 26-year-old graduate student, just as a 12-year-old letter writer, Tom Wolfe was already recognizably himself.

My own take on Wolfe is that his writing leads one to think he was having great fun recounting the exploits of his real and imagined characters. He often referred to America as a "carnival," and what palpable delight he took in her.


Tom Wolfe.jpg

Addendum: George Plimpton's 1991 interview, Tom Wolfe, The Art of Fiction No. 123, in the Paris Review also gives one a good aper├žu into an unaffected, thoughtful man.

Addendum: Closer to home, my classmate Dean Esserman '79's father, Paul Esserman, was Tom Wolfe's doctor for 37 years. When Paul Esserman passed away in 1999, Wolfe gave his eulogy at a gathering hosted by the Ethical Culture Society in Manhattan. For the occasion, Wolfe wore a black suit.

Wolfe's practice of the calligraphic arts certainly mirrored his writing style:

Wolfe Dedication.jpg

This dedication page is found inside Wolfe's book, "Mauve Gloves & Madmen, Clutter & Vine" -- a first edition that he gave to Paul Esserman.


Dever: The Million Dollar Lady

May 26 2018

If I ever write a business book, it will be entitled "Quality People Are Free." Which is to say that high performers justify a high salary because they bring in so much money and do so many good things, in addition to saving money for an organization far beyond their compensation, that they more than cover their wages. I'd much rather have a Dartmouth President earning $2 million a year than shell out $1,251,216 for Phil Hanlon, or to continue that logic, to pay $808,623 to a Provost like Carolyn Dever (their 2016 salaries). That's money down the drain.

Now that Carolyn has left Parkhurst for the relaxed climes of Sanborn Hall, one wonders how much she is making as an English professor. I'd bet the same amount, at least for a few years. We'll find out from future IRS 990 forms.

We do know that she is doing well enough to buy a fancy house just off of Balch Hill (in place of her erstwhile Provost's digs on Clement Road):

Dever Residence.jpg

Five bedrooms and four and a half bathrooms for only $1,075,000, according to the Town of Hanover's records:

Dever House2.jpg

Dever House 1.jpg

When Carolyn arrived at Dartmouth from Vanderbilt, the consensus view among the faculty was that she was in town to punch her ticket on the way to a college presidency somewhere else. Needless to say, her three and a third utterly undistinguished years as Provost did not prove to be a stepping stone for her (though they did help us understand that Phil Hanlon can't hire good people for beans). Despite endless job searching while she was on the College's payroll, nobody would hire her to run another school.

Carolyn will be on the College's books for decades to come.

Addendum: It would seem from Carolyn's easy parachute jump from Parkhurst to Sanborn that not only did she negotiate a whopping salary before coming to Dartmouth, but she also had the foresight to have tenure thrown into her compensation package, too. Pretty clever.


Why DDS Really Sucks (2/3)

May 25 2018

A student describes the true cost of "dining" at DDS:

My perspective of the meal swipes is they are expensive and designed to incentivize people to go to foco ['53 Commons or Thayer Dining Hall to the older set]. If you don't like foco, you lose money. On the 5-meal plan, which is the least number of meal swipes you can have on campus, each swipe costs $14.90. The only place it is worth more than $14.90 is at foco from 4:00-8:30, where it is worth $14.95. So if you use all 50 of them at foco for dinner, you will save $2.50 the entire term. It's laughable.

Anyways, by eating at either the Hop or Collis, you lose money. The meal swipe is worth the most at dinner, only $10.00. A burger with bacon and fries is $13.41. So the meal swipe for which we paid $14.90 only covers $10.00, and the remaining $3.41 gets added on top for a total of $18.31. For a burger!

It is even worse if you go at lunch or late night. The meal swipe is worth less than $6.00 after 8:30, so the total for the burger using the meal swipe is over $22.00.

One last point. at the meeting Plodzik pitched the unlimited plan as a great value. The example he used was that he could tell parents they don't have to worry about their kids being able to eat, so the implication is it is really valuable, especially for families that aren't high income.

First of all, no one has ever been turned away from getting food, even if they are out of DBA and meal swipes because it just gets charged to their account (not to mention all the free food offered at daily campus events). Second, the unlimited plan would be the same as the 20-meal plan, which is the most expensive plan at $2,005.00/term -- or over $28.00/day. I can promise you that I can feed myself for less than $28.00/day.

I could give you a hundred different examples like this, things that any rational person would think makes no sense. I think it is clear from talking with both Plodzik and the associate director that they are not going to make the meal plans optional, which is what I want (I asked them in the fall, and they said no).

So what do you think it would take for someone above DDS to force them to do that. Is it possible, and if so, who would it have to come from? So who would I have to talk to?

At the Student Assembly event, this student asked Jon Plodzik why he should have to wait an hour in line at the Hop, when he could get a burger for the same money at a restaurant in Hanover. Plodzik responded -- if you can believe this -- that at a restaurant in town, the student would probably have to wait an equivalent amount of time to be served. "So," he asked, "what's the difference?"

Part 1. Part 2.