The working man's author decided it was time to take out the iconic Mark Twain for being a bourgeois phony. But maybe old Tom is just upset that he was never able to write The Great American Novel himself?
In a Sunday Times op-ed, Wolfe lays in to Twain for being a spoiled rich kid who didn't actually live the life that he wrote about. Wolfe calls Twain a "Huckleberry Homer" who had the audacity to build a big house with all of that money he made from swindling readers around the world, when he should have been sleeping in mines or on muddy riverbanks like Wolfe surely would have done.
In 1871, Mrs. Stowe was living in a mansion in Hartford, when a 36-year-old writer came to town and built a bigger one barely a block away. There, practically next door, [Twain] proceeded to overtake and replace her as the most famous American writer of all time. He remains the title-holder this morning, in fact...the 100th anniversary, plus four days, of his death, April the 21st, 1910: MARK TWAIN.
This improbable yobbo, Mark Twain, had risen up from the buried life of the mines and the boiler rooms and done an amazing thing. He had turned the local yokel's yawping yodels into ... literature!
Most famous American writers have taken liberties when it comes to cultivating their image, and don't always live the lifestyle their inner man child wants to live. Ernest Hemingway was as a legendary blowhard. Former Gawker intern (and author) James Frey lied about a lot of things. And Tom Wolfe was too much of a pussy to take acid with the Merry Pranksters while he worked on The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. But to Wolfe, there's no excuse for surrounding yourself with shallow celebrities and assorted rich people (things he would never, ever do):
Twain installed himself in an exclusive sylvan nest of celebrities on the west edge of Hartford called Nook Farm. It was exclusive because the developer would sell lots only to certified nobs. Nook Farm became a Bel-Air for the Belletrists, a Xanadu for the Godzillanaires of the Gilded Age (Gilded Age being Twain's term) and high-profile politicians.
That sounds like a lifestyle Tom Wolfe would absolutely hate — a bunch of rich people gathered in a community where they can mingle and talk about how much money they have and make fun of the poors. Why? Because Tom Wolfe is an American Everyman.
Never trust a man who wears all white.