Not On Censorship

August 16th, 2004 · No Comments
by Booksquare

Some would think a piece from today’s Page Six column would have us on a censorship rant. Except it’s hard to suggest an author is being censored when they are cooperating fully. So, okay, strike censorship (unless someone is in the mood to argue the part where the reader is not being allowed to make adult, informed choices…we find that an appropriate topic). Some might even think we’d rant a bit about the loss of quality that comes from deleting terms and placing bizarre descriptions in brackets. Except we find it funny beyond belief. If it were us (and clearly we do not have the editorial pull we wish), we would simply run the passage with a “Not Suitable for Those of Delicate Constitution” warning. We’d probably suggest the passage isn’t appropriate for children, as well.

No, what really bugs us is that The New York Post doesn’t use a content management system. Linking to items in their online edition is an exercise in futility — so much so that we usually don’t. Too much bother. Where we want you to experience the glory of the paper’s prose in its natural setting, they thwart our sincere effort. So here’s the item. We’re sorry we can’t replicate the full experience:

August 16, 2004 —

LITERARY lion Tom Wolfe is being censored by the New York Times


The Old Gray Lady is excerpting a passage from Wolfe’s raucous new novel, “I Am Charlotte Simmons” (due out from FSG in November) in an upcoming “Back to School” issue of the Book Review. But even though the section’s editor, Sam Tenenhaus, selected one of the tamer passages in the sex-stuffed tome, the Times’ censors have axed some choice bits, we’re told.

According to insiders, the terms “need some ass,” “get some ass” and “get laid” are being excised, and will most likely be replaced with the words “sexual activity” in brackets.

Apparently the expurgations are the result of lengthy negotiations between the white-suited Wolfe, Tenenhaus and the Times’ arbiters of taste. At one point it seemed as if they wouldn’t be able to run anything at all, we’re told.

Wolfe is taking the changes well, however, and seems to think it’s funny that the Times is being so prudish.

“I thought we got over this when Judge Woolsey let [James Joyce’s] ‘Ulysses’ into the country in 1933,” Wolfe’s rep, Jeff Seroy, at FSG told PAGE SIX. “But my hat’s off to Sam and Tom for making this happen [after all]. Tom loves the fact that the Times is running it.”

Throughout the book, set in the world of frat parties and boorish college athletes at fictitious Dupont University, Wolfe employs sexual terms much more shocking than the ones above. The school is said to be based on Duke University, which Wolfe’s daughter, Alexandra, now a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, attended.

According to FSG’s catalog copy, the novel follows Charlotte Simmons, an innocent girl from North Carolina who is shocked by the goings-on at Dupont, which is “closer in spirit to Sodom than Athens, and that sex, crank and kegs trump academic achievement every time.”

Jann Wenner shelled out big bucks to excerpt the novel in his magazines Rolling Stone and Men’s Journal, which won’t be censoring the naughty bits. Two of Wolfe’s earlier works, “A Man in Full” and “Bonfire of the Vanities,” were also serialized in Rolling Stone.

File Under: Square Pegs