Burning Atlanta, again

November 15, 1998|By Arnold Rosenfeld

ATLANTA -- There are three kinds of people here who worry about Tom Wolfe's new novel of Atlanta, "A Man in Full."

1) People who read the book for the fun of it.

2) People who worry about what Mr. Wolfe will say about their city, whether he will misunderstand, or, worse yet, understand.

3) People who worry that if they carp, Mr. Wolfe will retaliate in a subsequent magazine article. He has ways of getting back few of us can even conceive.

The category 2 worriers, who fret over atmospherics, are in a state of fretful suspension. They await validating reaction from elsewhere. In other words, how others, like Coloradans who read, will see us.

Atlantans endlessly worry that we will be seen as greedy, commercial, boosterish, materialistic and overly sensitive about what is said about us. A lot of us do worry awfully and in large numbers about the correctness of our cars and of our lawns. Then we worry that we will be caught at it.

From what I can tell, Atlanta has come off without serious damage in the 742-page Wolfe book. Mr. Wolfe is 67 now and can be presumed to be on Medicare, a bit more tolerant of the foibles of people or cities, not the Tom Wolfe of the unforgiving new journalism of the 1970s. He notes our foibles more benignly now.

Is Mr. Wolfe to Atlanta literature as William Tecumseh Sherman was to Scarlett O'Hara's Atlanta? Nah. Something more on the order of the Union general Meade at Gettysburg.

Arnold Rosenfeld is editor-in-chief of Cox Newspapers.

Pub Date: 11/15/98

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