European Ideas Too Dominant In American Art, Wolfe Says

Writer Tom Wolfe criticized America's "bowing down to European concepts in all the arts" at the Ford Hall Forum held at Northeastern University last night.

"Intellectually, America is still the most obedient colony Europe has," Wolfe said.

Described by the moderator as "the nation's foremost New Journalist," Wolfe gave examples of European influence in art, literature, music and architecture.

He said American "worship of Europe began after World War I. Ever since, intellectuals have tried to duplicate Europe's "sophisticated" problems.

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The Vietnam War finally satisfied them, Wolfe said. "If you talk to intellectuals who say they were against the war, the chances are nine out of ten that you're talking to liars."

It is "highly ironic" that today's writers have abandoned the realism that made American literature so successful in the 1930s, Wolfe said, and added that "realism was the first form of literature that made people cry."

The New Journalists have adopted realism as a tool in their writing, he added. "I shouldn't warn writers about the powers of realism--I'm only creating problems for myself as a journalist."

Artists today look down on the American public instead of creating for it, Wolfe said.

"The art world is made up of 10,000 people in eight cities around the world, one of which is not Boston, which says something about the art world, not about Boston," he said.

In music, "the work of leading serious composers is listened to only by other leading serious composers," Wolfe said. "You might as well get an upland Baptist to tell a funny story about the birth of Jesus" as to get today's architects to stray from the ideas of Walter Gropius, the German-born American architect who founded the Bauhaus school and headed the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

Wolfe blamed Gropius for today's "hotel rooms that look like the inside of a Westclox alarm clock box" and homes that resemble "the engine room of the Grand Coulee Dam."

On the other hand, movies are a true American art form, Wolfe said, because "they started off as something commercial."

Wolfe said today's students share the artist's contempt for "the silent majority." He cited the irony of a recent survey, in which 85 per cent of the American youths polled said they were "very happy" with their lives, but 83 per cent said democracy was "a sham."

Wolfe said he is not entirely opposed to the dominance of European ideas. "If I ever go to the moon, I want to go under the guidance of the laws of a European, Isaac Newton. I don't want to go any other way," he said.