Esquire is gross. We’ve covered that. Not many texts are more ephemeral than book reviews in Esquire, except maybe reviews in Esquire of recent books by Tom Wolfe; the neo-Social Realist ones. And yet although nothing Tom Wolfe, Esquire, or the General Reader does matters, Benjamin Alsup’s compact but weirdly patient, vicious disposal of Wolfe’s Back to Blood (yeesh, the title) is worth your bytes and clicks. A fundamental thrust:
[. . .] There are no characters in Back to Blood, only caricatures, cartoonish stereotypes that are little more than reflections of their sociocultural contexts. The Cuban cop who loves his pastelitos. The preppy reporter with all the right credentials. The Hialeah honey with a heart of gold and a pussy like a papaya. In Back to Blood, Wolfe comes across as a white guy explaining brown people to a room full of white guys. Sure, he burns pages giving his readers access to these characters’ interiors, but once he’s given you the sociological stats (age, gender, race, occupation) there’s really no need for it. Anything Wolfe tells you about what his characters are thinking are things you could’ve guessed from the jump.
We want your weekend to prosper. We don’t want you wasting time with shitty art. So believe us when we say this, y’all: If it ever comes down to white urban writers, you are better off (you are fantastically well-off) with David Simon or Richard Price (or Tom Wolfe from before 1980).