Tom Wolfe: Novel Isn't About Duke

Tom Wolfe I Am Charlotte Simmons CBS/AP

Tom Wolfe, who wrote about lacrosse culture in "I Am Charlotte Simmons," reiterates the novel's setting is not Durham, home to Duke University and its embattled lacrosse team.

Answering an audience member's question at a book festival on the Duke campus, the author said he did notice similarities between his fictional characters and people at the center of the recent rape investigation involving Duke lacrosse players.

Wolfe's 2004 novel, set on a fictional Northern university campus, portrays "sexually aggressive lacrosse players." An earlier best-seller, "The Bonfire of the Vanities," depicts a white district attorney who needs black votes to be re-elected. Durham's district attorney, Mike Nifong, is white and a candidate in the Democratic primary Tuesday.

But none of the "Charlotte Simmons" characters "lived within 600 miles of Durham, N.C.," Wolfe said Saturday at the North Carolina Festival of the Book.

Duke has been mentioned as the possible setting for "Charlotte Simmons," partially because the fictional Dupont University includes the Gothic architecture that marks Duke and also because Wolfe's daughter attended Duke.

In the book, athletes at Dupont are depicted as lumbering, thuggish "herpes pustules" who get all the women and get away with everything. In lacrosse, one character says, "white boys are the ones with the machismo."

Wolfe said his next book will be on immigration. His previous works include "The Right Stuff," the acclaimed behind-the-scenes chronicle of the U.S. space program, and the 1998 novel "A Man in Full," runner-up for the National Book Award.
  • Judy Faber

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