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The Pump House Gang

by Tom Wolfe
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
1965

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Running throughout The Pump House Gang is the central theme of most of Tom Wolfe's writing: Status. Much of the book deals with a surprising phenomenon in contemporary life: a determined retreat from conventional social hierarchies that Tom Wolfe calls "starting your own league." Surfers, motorcyclists, lumpen-dandies and . . . yes . . . stay-at-homes (see "The King of the Status Drop-Outs")-everybody's doing it. Except for die-hards in the crumbling old social worlds of New York and London, where the confusion is so great (see "Bob and Spike" and "The Mid-Atlantic Man") that nobody can tell whether this is really the path to the top they've taken or just the service elevator.

Dazzlingly brilliant as a stylist, daringly provocative as a commentator, and always entertaining, Tom Wolfe is in his new book quite thoroughly . . . himself. He is at his best with the Pump House Gang, a remarkable surfing elite-who reappear briefly in a book published simultaneously with this one, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, about the adventures of Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, the rise of the psychedelic life style in America, and the founding of a bizarre new religion. In the midst of it all, many members of the redoubtable Pump House Gang become indoor sports-happily freaking out in pads rather than wiping out in the surf, but with the same unique Pump House Gang flair.

Reviews

"Very good stuff, perceptive, horrifying, funny, perhaps exhausting all at once." -Eliot Fremont-Smith, The New York Times

"The Pump House Gang cuts deeper into the blubber of the modern 'revolutionary' psyche and discusses, in the words of the author, 'ego extension, the politics of pleasure, the self-realization racket, the pharmacology of Overjoy . . . Tom Wolfe is more than brilliant . . . He is more than urbane, suave, trenchant and all those book review adjectives . . . Tom Wolfe is a goddam joy. Also, not to insult him, he writes like a master." -Karl Shapiro, The Washington Post Book World

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