Vals & WolfenTom Wolfe: The PurplenDecades: A Reader; Farrar, Strausn& Giroux; New York.nIN FOCUSnThere is—or was, as suchnthings are characterized by extraordinarilynshort duration—annepiphenomenon that began innsouthern California known asnthe “Valley Girl” syndrome.n”Vals,” as they’re referred to,nare wide-eyed creatures whonmay still have braces on theirnteeth. Although fashion setsnthem apart from their peers, as isnthe case with any social cliquen(e.g., preppies, punks), theirnlanguage and intonation is anmore pronounced differentiation.nFor example, should onenencounter something thatnbothers her in the slightest—nsuch as a pop quiz in her 9thgradensocial-studies class—she’llnlater describe it to a cohort in thenfollowing manner: “O, man, Inmean like it was r-e-a-1-l-yngross!!! I mean, like, it wasntotally weird-d-d, and justnmade me want to gag, like,no-o-o-o-o!” The Vals lead to twonobservations on Tom Wolfe.n1) The social critic par excellencenwill undoubtedly take antrip to the valley and hang outnaround the school lockers and atnthe shopping malls wearing anthree-piece, double-breastednsuit in a pastel shade (Val:n”Far-r-r oux.”). He will screw upnhis mouselike visage almost as ifnhaving sensory whiskers andnlisten, intensely, capturing thenessence of things that are characterizednas “groady” or whichnmake one want to squeal, “Gagnme with a spoon!” He’ll care­nfully note how the Vals’ hairnhangs, the specific types ofnmakeup and scents employed,nthe obviousness of the jewelry,nwhether brassieres arc wornn(though with some Vals it’s hardnto tell), the textures and colors ofnthe blouses, the snugness of thentrousers and skirts, the opacity ofnthe hose, and the attitude andnelevation of the footwear. He’llnmonitor eating habits—especiallynwith regard to any anorecticntendencies—dance patterns,nand other aspects of quotidiannlife. Once the data have beenncollected, he’ll turn on hisnApple Computer-like brain,nprocess them, activate his mentalnWinchester disk drives, andnoutput relevant materials via hisninternal Epson printer. The resultnwill be a lively piece of deepwaternjournalism that will putnhis conservative fans in a state ofnawe and extort grudging praisenfrom liberal commentators.n2) Tom Wolfe is responsible,nin part, for the Valley Girls. Thatnis, Wolfe, since his advent on thenScene, has chronicled pop culture.nMany of his pages arenfound in The Purple Decades: AnReader. Almost every one of hisnsubjects is something that hasnbeen rendered by other chroniclersnof the same topics: poprockngroups. For example, thenhot rods and race-car drivers ofnThe Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-nFlake Streamline Baby werenalready sung about by the BeachnBoys, Jan and Dean, and othersnbefore Wolfe lighted uponnthem, as had been the surfers hendeals with in The Pump HousenGang. “The Girl of the Year,”nincluded in the former, whichndescribes an underground socialiten, was manifest by Nico andnthe Velvet Underground. Onenneed only listen to the GratefulnDead to get the gist of The ElectricnKool-Aid Acid Test (thengroup, something of a housenband for Kesey and the Pranksters,ndoes emerge in Wolfe’snrendition), to say nothing of thenLSD-driven wailings of JiminHendrix. Radical chic can findnfew better definitions than onenstemming from the business sidenof rock music, wherein businessmenn(i.e., apparently respectablenexecutives) have beennknown to provide funds to performersnso that they can “score”nwhat’s euphemistically calledn”recreational drugs.” The revolutionarynposturing of RadicalnChic & Mau-Mauing the FlaknCatchers can be found in thenlyrics of many songs currentnwhen it appeared in 1970;n”Volunteers” by the JeffersonnAirplane, complete with a refrainnthat begins “Up againstnthe wall” etc., is a prime example.nHunter S. Thompson is ankey practitioner of what’s describednin (and as) The NewnJournalism; Thompson firstngained notice for a book on thenHell’s Angels, an assemblagenthat has roots in the 50’snrock’n’roll, and later gainednfame for his pieces in RollingnStone. The astronauts of ThenRight Stuff wttt being sungnabout by such diverse figures asnElton John and David Bowien(many of the former’s tunes arenunwittingly heard in stores andnoffices every day in Muzak renditions)nprior to the appearance ofnWolfe’s best-seller. Where is then”Me Decade” more evidentnthan in figures like Mickjagger?nThis is not to state or implynthat Tom Wolfe gets all of hisnideas from FM radio. But it isnclear that Wolfe is attuned tonmany of the subfrequencies thatnare filtered out by most people.nHe seizes upon little-noticednnnaspects of contemporary life innAmerica. Unlike the variousnbefore-mentioned aooners andnwallers, Wolfe doesn’t simplynsing a. paean to them, but providesnan assessment in the contextnof values that are more profoundnand enduring than thosenwhich culminate in gold records.nBack to the Valley Girls. Thenlanguage of the Vals is very reminiscentnof the prose style in thenearly Wolfe. It is almost as if thenVals were assigned one of hisnbooks in their 9th-grade socialstudiesnclass (Wolfe’s books arenbeing assigned) and it has servednas the basis for a cargo cult. Evennif that’s not the case, Wolfe’s extremelynpopular studies ofnAmerican subculture have led tonthe recognition of such by publishers,nadvertisers, and merchandisersnwho seize upon buddingnfads and capitalize on themn(e.g., Pac-Man was once a videongame; it is now a way of life withnits own books, TV shows, clothing,ncar ornaments, food, etc.).nWolfe, more than any other onnthe Scene, has made the ephemeralntoo attractive. •nFighting thenNew YorknStage ManagersnA.L. Lazarus and Victor H.nJones: Beyond ‘Graustark’:nGeorge Barr McCutcheon—nPlaywright Discovered; KennikatnPress; Port Washington, NY.n”I have often thought,”nwrote Samuel Johnson, “thatnthere has rarely passed a life ofnwhich a judicious and faithfulnnarrative would not be useful.”nGeorge Barr McCutcheon appearsnas a negligibly unimportantnfigure in most standard literarynand cultural histories,nmemorable only for best-sellingnbut artistically trivial works suchnFcbrttaryl983n