/ Reading Notes /
Own Yo Ass
2015 06 25 I love Tom Wolfe. I’ve loved him since reading my first sentence of The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test in 1970. I then read all of his journalism, and the novels, as they came out, Man in Full still being my favorite. Now I introduce him to Jan: and just these last few weeks find a collection I’d missed: Hooking Up, 2000. Jan had known no Wolfe, now she’s crazy about him. Yesterday on her couch I read her the Hooking Up piece itself, and realized: Wolfe missed something:
He talks, brilliantly of course, penetratingly of course, of how the rich dress. The Park Avenue doorman is dressed like an Austrian officer from centuries ago, the chaufeur is dressed similarly, but the billionaire’s kid, having the doors held for him, dressed like a homey from Harlem: and the homey from Harlem, or BedSty, dresses like any brother just out of jail. In particular I focus on the cargo pants down around the knees, the kid’s underpants exposed.
There’s something about this detail, a key, that Wolfe doesn’t mention!
In jail the exposed shorts has a meaning. That meaning got lost somewhere along the way. It’s a mark of ownership. In jail, yo ass isn’t yours; yo ass is the property of the alpha thug who claims you. The black alpha male signifies ownership of you, his fuck-boy, by yanking your pants down around your knees. Yo ass is now mine: exclusively.
Like branding sheep.
Except in this case, for the homeys in Harlem, the sheep are branding themselves! owner unknown! And the billionaire’s son is en suite branding himself.
So many things have meanings at their outset; typically the meaning is lost by the time it becomes a fad.
When I was in high school, girls who wanted to proclaim virginity, wore a particular kind of pin. The next thing I knew girls who definitely were not virgins were wearing that pin.
In the Village one of my gallery owners explained to me that where the fags hooked their key ring had significance: on the left hip meant one thing, the right hip another: Where you hooked up? Available? The keys are the key.
Wolfe covers some important topics in this collection: and I’m humiliated that I didn’t already know most of it. Much of it I did know, but not all of it. Shokley I knew: McLuhan, Teillard; no gap humiliates me more than Edward O. Wilson: the more so as in 1968, 1969, 1970 I was reading every word of every article in the NYReview. Apparently Wilson was there around that time. Worst: in 1979 Gregory Bateson’s Mind and Nature sparked an epiphany in me: but I see Wilson et alia already should have. Apparently I understood good parts of Wilson from his effect on others. Possibly of course I thought of some part of it myself.
I thought of much through Teillard and Bateson, but I should have already been thinking it through Wilson.
Read pk on God, religion … you’ll find lots of overlap with Wilson.
On the Subject:
Wilson on religion:
Men would rather believe than know. (as phrased by Michael McGoodwin)
Three major religions of today: Marxism, traditional religion, and scientific materialism.
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