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December 05, 1965 - Image 23

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The Michigan Daily, 1965-12-05
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*w tDf




Tom Wolfe

TOM WOLFE: The Kandy-Kolored Tan-
gerine-Flake Streamline Baby Farrar,
Straus and Giroux. 1965 $5.50
By Mark R. Killingsworth
IF QUALITY, not quantity, is the
standard by which culture is judged,
the best of American culture would doubt-
less merit a highly favorable rating. Our
musicians have continually been inno-
vators. Our artists have been pre-emi-
nent. We are quite possibly foremost in
the dance.
There is, of course, another culture, the
Doris Day - Ray Coniff - John O'Hara
syndrome, which has been discussed and
criticized, both here and abroad, to such
an extent that it seems neither necessary
or valuable to carry the evaluation
But there is a third culture in this
country. As the press handout (a literary
manifestation of this third culture) on
The Kandy - Kolored Tangerine - Flake
Streamlined Baby says, its author Tom
takes a sharp-eyed look at the
American scene, and zeroes in on the
new, exotic forms of status-seeking-
social, cultural, and otherwise-that
are flourishing across the country. A
central notion threading through Mr.
Wolfe's rich assortment of observa-
tions is that recent years have seen
the emergence of a good many in-
triguing art forms and styles of life,
having nothing at all to do with the
elite culture of the past. Vulgar and
common to the Establishment, they
really express the ordinary Ameri-
can's sense of form and beauty.
The blurb goes on to list "expressions
of this exuberant new culture, which
might be called Postwar Teenage," and
suggests that "the upper crust has been
frantically seeking new forms to pre-
serve its status against the proles."
That is the best brief analysis of
Wolfe's book. Perhaps it may seem in-
appropriate to some for a political re-
porter to attempt to discuss such cul-
tural phenomena (although, to be sure,
students of cultural phenomena have
evidently taken increasing interest re-
cently in political events, from New York
City to Saigon).
On the other hand, perhaps culture and
politics are linked together in the life
of this great Republic to a greater extent
than anyone might have imagined.
This seems to be the case here; in any
event, though, it is well to present more
than a simple summary of Mr. Wolfe's
book before discussing its implications of
whatever nature.
E TITLE of the book comes from an
experience Wolfe had with the
"Nether-culture" he has been investigat-

ing. It seems he was asked to do a fea-
ture story on the Hot Rod & Custom Car
Show for Esquire Magazine (which, along
with The New York Herald Tribune, has
printed most of his material).
The article, in his words, was supposed
to be the opposite of the "totem formula"
story, a genre usually reserved for events
of this kind. "The totem story," Wolfe
says disdainfully, "usually makes what
is known as 'gentle fun' of the topic
which is a way of saying, don't worry,
these people are nothing."
But Wolfe found, in doing his story,
that these people were something. He
returned from the show, he says in the
introduction to the book, a collection of
his reportage, so excited he couldn't write
about his experiences.
After a long wait, Byron Dobell, the
magazine's managing editor, finally told
Wolfe to write a memo on his experiences
and someone else would write the story.
Wolfe typed out his notes in a 49-page
letter to Dobell.
Esquire struck out the "Dear Byron"
and ran the rest of the letter intact, and
thus The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake
Streamline Baby.
THE BOOK itself begins with a descrip-
tion of Las Vegas, which Wolfe ideal-
izes: "It is no accident .that Las Vegas
and Versailles are the only two archi-
tecturally uniform cities in Western his-
tory. . . . Long after Las Vegas' influence
as a gambling heaven has gone, Las
Vegas' forms and symbols will be influ-
encing American life."
Wolfe adds a conversation with one
Ted Blaney, chief designer of Federal
Sign and Signal Corporation, on a "huge
boomerang Shape" which prevails in
the styling of neon signs in the city:
"Well, that's what we call-what we
sort of call- free form,'" Blaney told
Wolfe rhapsodizes:
Free form! Marvelous! No hung-
up old art history words for these
guys. America's first unconscious
avant-garde! The hell with Mondri-
an, whoever the hell he is. The hell
with Moholy-Nagy, if anyone ever
heard of him. Artists for the new age,
sculptors for the new style and new
money of the ... Yah! Lower orders,
The new sensibility ...
He also notes the music (Muzak) which
is perpetual and which "pervades Las
Vegas from the time you walk into the
airport upon landing to the last time you
leave the casinos. . It was as if there
was a communal fear that someone,
somewhere in Las Vegas, was going to
be left with a totally vacant minute on
his hands."
And, in addition to noting "the Las
Vegas buttocks decolletage;" the fact

that (like most of the other manifesta-
tions of this sort of American culture)
the city all began after the war largely
because of the new influx of money and
eager consumers; the "electronic jolli-
fidcation" of the "Urp! Wheep! Lulu!"
of radio station KORK's "Action Check-
point News"; Wolfe also has time to learn
from Mr. Major A. Riddle, the president
of the Dunes hotel, that the strip show
this year for the -Dunes' Casino de Paris
will cost $2.5 million to run and $1.5 mil-
lion to produce.
WOLFE MOVES on to Riverhead, Long
Island, where drag races have created
"what is culturally the most important
sport ever originated in the United States,
a sport that ranks with the gladitorial
games -of Rome as a piece of national
symbolism." There is as in medieval
times, little prize money; most of it is
done for fun and, presumably, ego-grati-
fication and prestige.
And, as Roman socialites did with the
gladiators' games by the second century
A.D., Wolfe finds the upper class is now
beginning to enter these automotive lists
themselves "for kicks."
Wolfe examines other exponents of
this Nether-culture of gleaming automo-
biles, mindless music and pointless but
frenetic "ACTION!" He goes from Mur-
ray Kaufman, better known as Murray
the K ("It's what's happening, baby!"),
who became the "Fifth Beatle" (and thus
cashed in on the Beatle craze himself)
by becoming their American escort thanks
to luck and intrepidity - to 23-year-old
Phil Spector, the hirsute multimillionaire
president of a large number of record
corporations and accurately named "The
First Tycoon of Teen."
Discussing automobiles in the title
article ("Kandy . . .") and in another
piece on Junior Johnson, a revered stock-
car driver from North Carolina, Wolfe
adds that not only are a substantial num-
ber of people interested in restyling and
modifying cars along lines "Detroit didn't
do until years later," but that they are
also taking over a good deal of the car
Detroit auto makers have responded
to this new sense of taste and, as is well-
known, are even providing topnotch cars
"Nether culture and
in-culture, conponents
of a Schlock culture,
are essentially com-
posed of irrelevancies,
trivia, rather useless
material objects and
'personalities' of dif-
ferent sorts."
'..JG".{" > r A .e .3= .f-2:".. :.
for auto races so, if as they hope, their
cars consistently win, their company will
capture part of this market.
And then there are Cassius Clay, Cary
Grant (whose inclusion in such a book
seems curiously irrelevant) and Robert
Harrison, the publisher of the now-de-
funct Confidential magazine.
INTERESTINGLY, t h e Nether-culture
which Wolfe presents in such agonizing
and exquisite (and, to be sure, highly
entertaining) fashion is such that these
people are indeed something. In fact,
their culture seems to be seeping up into
the Establishment.
There is, for example, Baby Jane Hol-
zer, "The Girl of the Year," in her twelve-
room apartment on Park Avenue:
"Her style of life has ereated her
fame - rock and roll, underground
movies, decaying lofts, models, pho-
tographers, Living Pop Art, the twist,

the frug, the mashed potatoes, stretch
pants, pre-Raphaelite hair, Le Style
Camp. All of it has a common de-
nominator. Once it was power that
created high style. But now high
styles come from low places, from
people who have no power, who slink
away from it, in fact, who are mar-
ginal, who carve out worlds for them-
selves in the Nether depths, in taint-
ed 'undergrounds' "
Appropriately enough, Wolfe's piece
opens with Baby Jane's visit to a concert
by the Rolling Stones:
"Bangs manes bouffants beehives
Beatle caps butter faces brush-on
lashes decal eyes puffy sweaters
French thrust bras flailing leather
blue jeans stretch pants stretch jeans
honeydew bottoms eclair shanks elf
boots ballerinas Knight slippers, hun-
dreds of them, these flaming little
buds, bobbing and screaming, rocket-
ing around inside the Academy of
Music Theater underneath that vast
old cherub dome up there - aren't
they super-marvelous!"
And Baby Jane says:
"Wait'1l you see the Stones!
They're so sexy! . * . The Beatles,
well, you know, Paul McCartney -
sweet Paul McCartney. .. He's such
a sweet person. I mean, the Stones
are bitter-they're all from the work-
ing class, you know."
Apparently3, a lot of the Establishment's
devotion to the Nether-culture comes
from a fear of becoming what Wolfe re-
peatedly calls "infarcted" and (particu-
larly-and this recurs in nearly every
piece in the book) "arteriosclerotic."
"Now she looks worried," does Baby
Jane, "as if the world could be such a
simple and exhilerating place if there
weren't so many old and arteriosclerotic
people around to muck it up."
OF COURSE, there is still the more
traditional Establishment c u l t u r e,
though it is highly changed, and Wolfe
reports that too.
"The Saturday Route," for example, is
basically that of Middletown, U.S.A., but
in Manhattan it involves Social Kisses
and gossip and seeing what they are
wearing and doing while marching along
the Route along the art gallery section
of Madison Avenue.,
There is also the "secret vice" of the
Establishment for "marginal differentia-
tions" in clothing, such as "Our Exclusive
Shirtings," the "F i n e st Lairdsmoor
Heather Hopsacking," and so on. Prob-
ably one of the most interesting of the
new Establishment culture's many in-
teresting elements is the mania for coat
buttons which actually button one's coat
In Wolfe's book, two friends, one with
and one without this bit of arcane tail-
oring, compare sleeves. As for Ross, who
has the regular suit, Wolfe says: "That
really got to old Ross. He practically
couldn't wear that suit anymore."
The Nether-culture and the "In-cul-
ture," both fairly closely related, are
thus both essentially composed ofirrel-
levancies, trivia and rather useless mate-
rial objects and "personalities" of differ-
ent sorts.
In these regions Wolfe makes a most
interesting cicerone-stimulating, enter-
taining, provocative.
He deftly combines sociology (the ex-
planations of the growth of Las Vegas,
rock 'n' roll and the hotrod-dragracing
culture, for example, are excellent), hum-
or, a style perfectly adapted to his topic
and a topic which is, in the least, differ-
ent; the result, to many, will be an amus-
ing and witty tour of the sideshow areas
of an exhibit on American culture.
BUT THIS SORT of attitude, above all
things, is the one to avoid, and for
good reason-because "these people are

we currently face would have been licked
before this.
Q-So the report said, let's get going.
How do you see the University getting
A-Well, I think it is getting going in
lots of ways. There are units that are
beginning to state very clearly: we need
the following new staff at a particular
rate; so much space for instruction and
offices. This is going on now in all the
units. It may not be going fast, but this
is the next step in the process.
Q-Do you see the possibility of the
University expanding with added smaller
units as opposed to expanding existing
A-Yes, I think there are going to be
questions about the social organization
of the University that are going to be
clarified. Certainly the size of the liter-
ary college is one, I think the concept of
growing by units, residential college units,
or college units, is pretty well accepted
as the way to go.
Q-Can the Medical School get a class
larger than 200? Can that go on indefi-
nitely without, for instance, diluting edu-
cational quality?
A-My impression from Dean Hubbard
is that they are talking about functional
units that are smaller than the present
college. I think there are going to be some
inventions over on that part of the
Q-Would you say that is going to be
the case all over the University?
A-Not all over, because there are some
places it doesn't have to happen, such as
social work, or public health or dentistry.
Innovation and Change
Q-Do you see this as an impetus for
innovation and change?
A-I think there is going to be experi-
mentation in forms of organization, but
I don't think that we're going to just
create something really new. I also be-
lieve that a young person who comes to
the University of Michigan or Berkeley
does not elect to come here expecting
to be at Swarthmore. He wants something
of the richness, the complexity and even,
of the anonymity.
In conferences with students, when I
start talking about small living and
learning units, not everybody starts wav-
ing a flag and shouting, hurrah.
We have the challenge of creating
neighborhoods of learning in a big city
devoted to that process. The neighbor-
hood probably should not be self-con-
tained, and defining its relation to the
central services and resources of the city
is a delicate task.
Q-Do you have a general philosophy
of growth as a good or bad thing-that
you can get too many people on one
campus? For instance this campus is
going to continue to grow fairly fast and
yet Berkeley has a lid on growth.
A-It is certainly true that I have been
operating here with an attitude toward
growth that would not have led to the
imposition of the limit. I'm going to a
place that quite clearly has been operat-
ing under a different, or ostensibly op-
erating under a different, philosophy
than this institution has.
I don't happen to believe myself that
there is any necessary ideal limit on size
just in general. I think it is a problem of
social organization. A university of 11,000
can be too big, because it is poorly run,
poorly organized. So I don't think there
is any perfect relationship between the
size and the quality of the educational
I've talked with a few people at Berke-
ley about some of the consequences of
limiting total size. Many of them have
thought about some of the consequences.
When there is an upper limit and some
new area of learning and research needs
development, what is going to be
dropped? This is not a problem that most
universities have had to face. This is a
new challenge to Berkeley and the suc-
cess with which it handles it will be
Q-How far can this university go with
its North Campus before it starts coming

up with space problems again?
A-I don't know. The University is not
too far from it. Sometimes when we get
into site discussions, the area that looked
as big as Rhode Island is getting pretty
small. To answer your question, it can't
go very far.
Q-The way we are housing these peo-
ple is obviously developing more and
more into a very dense situation here
with righ rises and all. Yet the University
still adheres to the concept of lawns and
low buildtngs andso on, This Is going

to have to change isn't it?
A-I think there will be more of a,
tendency for high rise University build-
ings. Certainly the campus planning calls
for emphasis on more tall buildings in
order to preserve grassy areas.
Q--What have been the components of
the decision to grow at this university?
Obviously there are various pressures
that come from various areas for various
A-As the growth report brings out,
they are both internal and external. They
come from needs of the society, pressures
from the state, the young people who
want to get in for professional training
after the BA, social responsibility, and
I think the aspirations and goals and
drives of the faculty. They want to start
new programs such as those in bio-en-
gineering, genetics, communication sci-
ences - and they want to bring in peo-
ple to study these subjects.
Q-Then your basic position is that
this isn't at all a bad thing?
A-That's right, provided the univer-
sity is adequately supported.
Educational Reform
Q-What about educational reform?
What's happening or ought to happen
A-Let me take grading credit hours
first. I don't see any real sign that these
particular questions have been formu-
lated in such a way that anybody is go-
ing to work at them seriously, and it may
be becauses they are not fundamental.
They may be just kind of lightning rods
that catch a lot of sparks, but nothing
is really happening.
It isn't very likely that right now any
university is going to do anything drastic
about grading systems. They might wor-
ry a little bit about the fact that one de-
partment gives two per cent E's and
another gives 20 per cent or something,
but I don't really believe that this is at
the heart of any real discontent.
At least the problem of grades hasn't
been formulated in such a way as to get
any real inventiveness out of it. Every-
body understands that there must be
some way of bookkeeping. It can be by.
credit hours, or passing examinations or
something like that, and again I don't
believe that examination of this brings
us to fundamentals.
Now when we start talking about
course structure and sequence of courses,
and the factors that influence what
courses are going to be offered, then you

There will be much less of the kind of
pedagogical situation in which the major
function of the teacher is a monitor,
who makes sure that people are really
studying every day, learns the vocabu-'
lary lists, or the content that must be
mastered so that the student can tackle
the next chapter.
There is a great deal of the school-
master kind of stuff even at the college
These are the main ones I think of that
will be developed. I think there will be
other things which will drop out.
The lecturer, for example, whose es-
sential effect is the communication of
fact that could be communicated in
other ways, is going to go out of style.
The lecturer who integrates, motivates,
stimulates, is not.
Q-The research explosion has brought
about strong development here and else-
where of inter-disciplinary work, inter-
disciplinary institutes, and so on, and yet
it always seemed to me that undergradu-
ate education just hasn't shown any of
these trends and goes along in the same
ruts. Are things going to happen here?
A-If you are talking about the impact
of inter-disciplinary research on curricu-
lum, I don't really think that's true.
The Introduction to Asia course is a
direct consequence of the stimulation of
research dollars from Ford and Carnegie.
The developments at the research level,
and the graduate teaching of a core of
faculty members led them to develop a
course for freshmen and sophomores.
This is a very good illustration of that
kind of sequence.
The communication sciences program is
now an undergraduate major in the liter-
ary college. It started out almost exclu-
sively as a research effort.
The bio-engineering program started
out as a research effort, and it is still
that primarily, but there is now small
and growing numbers of undergraduates
who are involved in it.
Q-Are there more coming?
A-I'm not as close to this as I was, but
the sequence is there and indeed, it is
almost enviable; people who are engaged
in research are encouraged to teach, and
so there is a great deal of influence.
Courses in economics are influenced by
the work of George Katona and Eva
Muelleur and Jim Morgan from the In-
stitute for Social Research. Courses in
political science have been influenced by
Angus Campbell and Philip Converse,
also from the institute.

biology. W
ftor them t
course nun
tion of atti
tional modi
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have a kin
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A-This is
times there
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graduates d
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Looking a
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When an
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Q-Do y
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A-This i

lem in part.
pect the stu
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I'm certai
bly invigora
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done this ye
I was ov
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about the v
and they w
were having
from each o

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'I don't really know whether it is actually true
that there is a lot more political activity on the
Berkeley campus than here. It has been more visible,
and it was localized on a political issue, but we've
had a lot of interest in political activity on this
campus, it seems to me * . .
It is hard to tell just how much of the intensity
at Berkeley arose after the withdrawal of the famous
piece of land. There was a large number of people
who were not active before.
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begin to get into some things which are
more fundamental, and here I believe
there are some encouraging signs-that
faculty members are looking at these
issues pretty carefully.
There are some things on the horizon
which suggest that University faculties
and administrators are really going to
have to take these seriously One is that
there is going to be an increasing short-
age in faculty. Secondly there is an ex-
plosion of knowledge, and thirdly there is
an increase in the number of students
who want to get in.
Now out of this-all of these external
pressures on the conditions under which
learning is going to take place, must come
a re-examination of what is taught, and
the conditions under which it is taught-
the role of the teacher in teaching these
things, the role of the peer group in help-
ing learning take place, and so on.
The kinds of external forces that make
for revolutionary changes are beginning
to be felt, and of those forces, student
discontent with the quality of their ex-
periences is one, but I don't think it is
as likely to produce change as the others
I have mentioned. ,
Q-As you look ahead in this field
then, you say there are going to be
changes coming, what are some of these?
A-I think programmed instruction is
one. It has great possibilities. Peer group
instruction is another-where groups of
people under some kind of general tute-
lage learn from each other.
Also reading or syllabus type courses,
where the final :test is an examination.

Two Cultures
Q-What about the growing gap be-
tween sciences and humanities as it is
manifested in teaching? Or the problems
at teaching science, especially biology,
that Clark Kerr has mentioned?
A-One issue here is the training of
an individual in one field intensively, and
in another field broadly, and this has
problems apart from whether you talk
about science or the humanities."
These topics, I would say, are some
of the best illustrations of issues that
could profit from increased discussion
between faculty members and students.
This is a perennial question, it usually
comes up in discussions of distribution
requirements or general education or
survey courses.
There are some very real problems in
these courses and in doing them well,
and repeatedly. It would be very good if
students knew how complicated this task
is, and there is no other way of finding
out how difficult it is than to be seriously
involved in it and have a chance at it.
There are some integrated courses that
are very well done. I think there are sev-
eral in the honors program.
Kerr's description about the antiquated
state of biology teaching may be true in
biology in general; but we have some ex-
cellent courses here in the literary col-
lege, or we did have some. I don't know
if they are still being taught. They were
developed by young biologists, botanists
and zoologists working together; not ort-
ented toward descriptive biology, but cell

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