February 15, 2016

THE KINGDOM OF SPEECH: Big News: Tom Wolfe’s The Kingdom of Speech Is in the Pipeline; Out in August.

Presumably, the book, Wolfe’s first non-fiction since his Hooking Up anthology in 2000, will build on Wolfe’s 2006 lecture to the National Endowment for the Humanities, in which he said:

I love my man Zola. He’s my idol. But the whole business exudes irony so rich, you can taste it. It tastes like marzipan. Here we have Darwin and his doctrine that in 1859 rocks Western man’s very conception of himself . . . We have the most popular writer in the world in 1888, Zola, who can’t wait to bring the doctrine alive on the page . . . We have the next five generations of educated people who have believed and believe to this day that, at bottom, evolution’s primal animal urges rule our lives . . . to the point where the fourth greatest pop music hit of 2001, “You and Me, Baby” by the Bloodhound Gang, proclaims, “You and me, baby, we ain’t nothing but mammals. / So let’s do it like they do on the Dis-cov-ery Channel”–it’s rich! rich! rich beyond belief!

O. I love you, Emile, but by the time you and Darwin got hold of it, evolution had been irrelevant for 11,000 years. Why couldn’t you two see it? Evolution came to an end when the human beast developed speech! As soon as he became not Homo sapiens, “man reasoning,” but Homo loquax, “man talking”! Speech gave the human beast far more than an ingenious tool. Speech was a veritable nuclear weapon! It gave the human beast the powers of reason, complex memory, and long-term planning, eventually in the form of print and engineering plans. Speech gave him the power to enlarge his food supply at will through an artifice called farming. Speech ended not only the evolution of man, by making it no longer necessary, but also the evolution of animals! Our animal friends–we’re very sentimental about predators these days, aren’t we–the lions, the tigers, the wolves, the rhinoceroses, the great apes, kangaroos, leopards, cheetahs, grizzly bears, polar bears, cougars–they’re “endangered,” meaning hanging on for dear life. Today the so-called animal kingdom exists only at the human beast’s sufferance.

Oh the fun that will be had when this book is debated.

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