The ubiquity of beer bongs and make-out sessions in the stacks notwithstanding, no two colleges are exactly alike—which is exactly the problem with the fictional Dupont University, the prestigious institution where Tom Wolfe’s newest doorstopper of a novel, I Am Charlotte Simmons, takes place. At 74, Wolfe is nearly three generations removed from today’s collegians, so he clearly had to do some research. But attempts to create a generic university out of all the stories he was fed by young hipsters have led the author to produce a world as bizarre as Beverly Hills 90210: The College Years. At the school I went to (let’s say it was a nice one), the jocks were not uniformly anti-intellectual, opposing gay-rights rallies put you in league with the KKK, and WASP frat-boy snobbery was replaced with the obnoxious meritocratic pride of kids who swore they’d been admitted without a legacy, a stellar athletic background, or any Native American heritage whatsoever. Still, as Slate’s Virginia Heffernan recently pointed out regarding Wolfe’s lascivious tome, there is something touching and genuine about red-state Charlotte’s attempts to escape her isolation and find her way in the cold, often indifferent atmosphere of modern university life. After Charlotte loses her virginity, Wolfe has her smelling her dirty panties while sitting on a toilet seat as an act of “self-abnegation.” I don’t know what kind of investigation he did to get that detail, but it’s almost worth all the book’s stupid discussions of hyper-PC culture and the sundry connotations of the word “fuck.” Wolfe reads Monday, Nov. 29, at 7 p.m. at Temple Sinai, 3100 Military Road NW, $10, (202) 364-1919, and Tuesday, Nov. 30 at 12:30 p.m. at Olsson’s Books & Records, 418 7th St. NW, free, (202) 638-7610. (Free numbered tickets available, one per person, at the store starting at 9 a.m.) (Paul Morton)