Tom Wolfe

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Literary London, from parlor to arty mews, has been one great wide open door for noble primitives, even though London literati still live in the mental atmosphere of the 19th-century aristocracy, in the world of the universities, nutty sherry, curly Shelley hair, parlor floor libraries with trestle ladders, and mandarin wit. The enthusiasm for genius-savages has been in part a guilty sympathy for the proles and primitives and in part a romantic awe of raw vitality. Nevertheless, the case of John Lennon is exceptional. He is one of the few Englishmen whom English literati have hailed as a genius of the lower crust. He comes out of the very vortex of something intellectuals all over the West have begun to turn to as a new fashion in artistic taste: namely, mass culture, which has been the material, in painting, for the genre known as "pop art." The pop artists sit on the floor wearing levis and Zorrie sandals in the same old calcimined lofts painting pictures of comic strips, tail fins, motel archways, tuxedo ads, housing development floor plans. But Lennon steps right out of mass culture, the "Beatlemania," without benefit of a middle man, we are assured, and becomes the artist himself….

[The stories and poems in In His Own Write are] nonsense writing, but one has only to review the literature of nonsense to see how well Lennon has brought it off. While some of his homonyms are gratuitous word play, many others have not only...

(The entire section is 422 words.)