Bonfire of the Vanities

( 50 )


Vintage Tom Wolfe, the #1 bestseller that will forever define late-twentieth-century New York style. "No one has portrayed New York Society this accurately and devastatingly since Edith Wharton" (The National Review)

Read More Show Less
... See more details below
Paperback (Reprint)
$12.54 price
(Save 30%)$18.00 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (71) from $1.99   
  • New (17) from $5.10   
  • Used (54) from $1.99   
The Bonfire of the Vanities: A Novel

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK
  • NOOK HD/HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook - First Edition)
$9.99 price

All Available Formats & Editions


Vintage Tom Wolfe, the #1 bestseller that will forever define late-twentieth-century New York style. "No one has portrayed New York Society this accurately and devastatingly since Edith Wharton" (The National Review)

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A big, bitter, funny, craftily plotted book that grabs you by the lapels and won't let you go."—The New York Times Book Review

"The Bonfire of the Vanities chronicles the collapse of a Wall Street bond trader, and examines a world in which fortunes are made and lost at the blink of a computer screen. . . .  Wolfe's subject couldn't be more topical: New Yorkers' relentless pursuit and flaunting of wealth, and the fury it evokes in the have-nots."—USA Today

"A superb human comedy and the first novel ever to get contemporary New York, in all its arrogance and shame and heterogeneity and insularity, exactly right."—The Washington Post Book World

"A page-turner . . . Brilliant high comedy."—The New Republic

"More than a tour de force."—Time

From The Critics

"A big, bitter, funny, craftily plotted book that grabs you by the lapels and won't let you go."--The New York Times Book Review

"The Bonfire of the Vanities chronicles the collapse of a Wall Street bond trader, and examines a world in which fortunes are made and lost at the blink of a computer screen. . . .  Wolfe's subject couldn't be more topical: New Yorkers' relentless pursuit and flaunting of wealth, and the fury it evokes in the have-nots."--USA Today

"A superb human comedy and the first novel ever to get contemporary New York, in all its arrogance and shame and heterogeneity and insularity, exactly right."--The Washington Post Book World

"A page-turner . . . Brilliant high comedy."--The New Republic

"More than a tour de force."--Time

Washington Post Book
A superb human comedy and the first novel ever to get contemporary New York, in all its arrogance and shame and heterogeneity and insularity, exactly right.
It’s the human comedy, on a skyscraper scale and at a taxi-meter pace...
People Magazine
Brillian —Bonfire illumines the modern madness that [was] New York in the 1980s with the intense precision of a laser beam.
New York Times Book Review
A big, bitter, funny, craftily plotted book that grabs you by the lapels and won’t let go.
Wall Street Journal
Impossible to put down...
New York Times
Delicious fun...
Philadelphia Inquirer
A smash...
Business Week
Washington Post Book World
Richly entertaining...
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In his spellbinding first novel, Wolfe proves that he has the right stuff to write propulsively engrossing fiction. Both his cynical irony and sense of the ridiculous are perfectly suited to his subject: the roiling, corrupt, savage, ethnic melting pot that is New York City. Ranging from the rarefied atmosphere of Park Avenue to the dingy courtrooms of the Bronx, this is a totally credible tale of how the communities uneasily coexist and what happens when they collide.

On a clandestine date with his mistress one night, top Wall Street investment banker and snobbish WASP Sherman McCoy misses his turn on the thruway and gets lost in the South Bronx; his Mercedes hits and seriously injures a young black man. The incident is inflated by a manipulative black leader, a district attorney seeking reelection and a sleazy tabloid reporter into a full-blown scandal, a political football and a hokey morality play.

Wolfe adroitly swings his focus from one to another of the people involved: the protagonist McCoy; Kramer, the assistant D.A.; two detectives one Irish, the other Jewish; a slimy, alcoholic British journalist; an outraged judge, etc. He has an infallible, mocking ear for New York voices, rendering with equal precision the defense lawyer's "gedoutdahere,'' the deliberate bad grammar ("that don't help matters'') of the wily "reverend'' and the clenched-teeth WASP locution ("howjado''). His reporter's eye has seized every gritty detail of the criminal justice system, and he is also acute in rendering the hierarchy at a society party. He convincingly equates the jungles of Wall Street and the Bronx: in both places men casually use the same four-letter expletives and, no matter what their standing on the social ladder, find that power kindles their lust for nubile young women.

Erupting from the first line with noise, color, tension and immediacy, this immensely entertaining novel accurately mirrors a system that has broken down: from the social code of basic good manners to the fair practices of the law. It is safe to predict that the book will stand as a brilliant evocation of New York's class, racial and political structure in the 1980s.

Library Journal
Insulation is the key to living in New York, according to millionaire bond salesman Sherman McCoy, insulation from "them.'' So when he makes a wrong turn one night and finds himself driving through the South Bronx in his Mercedes, he panics. In his haste to get back to Manhattan he sideswipes a pedestrian; made tabloid news by a sleazy reporter, the incident has every politician in town crying for McCoy's blood. As some critics have long maintained, Wolfe's genius may be better suited to fiction than to journalism; his novel has all the knowledge, insight, and wit of earlier works but tones down the notorious stylistic excesses. The result is not just Wolfe's most successful book to date but one of the most impressive novels of the decade. -- Edward B. St. John, Loyola Law School Library, Los Angeles
Library Journal

Wolfe's first foray into fiction was a Goliath success, becoming a No. 1 best seller nationwide as well as morphing into a feature film (which, alas, stunk badly). It's a laugh-out-loud dark comedy in addition to being a page-turning tale of power, politics, greed, and justice.

—Michael Rogers
Washington Post Book
A superb human comedy and the first novel ever to get contemporary New York, in all its arrogance and shame and heterogeneity and insularity, exactly right.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312427573
  • Publisher: Picador
  • Publication date: 3/4/2008
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 552
  • Sales rank: 105,804
  • Product dimensions: 5.55 (w) x 8.14 (h) x 1.28 (d)

Meet the Author

Tom Wolfe is the author of a dozen books, among them such contemporary classics as The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, and I Am Charlotte Simmons. He lives in New York City.


Tom Wolfe was born and raised in Richmond, Virginia. He was educated at Washington and Lee (B.A., 1951) and Yale (Ph.D., American Studies, 1957) Universities. In December 1956, he took a job as a reporter on the Springfield (Massachusetts) Union. This was the beginning of a ten-year newspaper career, most of it as a general assignment reporter. For six months in 1960 he served as The Washington Post's Latin American correspondent and won the Washington Newspaper Guild's foreign news prize for his coverage of Cuba.

In 1962 he became a reporter for the New York Herald Tribune and, in addition, one of the two staff writers (Jimmy Breslin was the other) of New York magazine, which began as the Herald Tribune's Sunday supplement. While still a daily reporter for the Herald Tribune, he completed his first book, a collection of articles about the flamboyant Sixties written for New York and Esquire and published in 1965 by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux as The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby. The book became a bestseller and established Wolfe as a leading figure in the literary experiments in nonfiction that became known as the New Journalism.

In 1968 he published two bestsellers on the same day: The Pump House Gang, made up of more articles about life in the Sixties, and The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, a nonfiction story of the hippie era. In 1970 he published Radical Chick & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers, a highly controversial book about racial friction in the United States. The first section was a detailed account of a party Leonard Bernstein gave for the Black Panthers in his Park Avenue duplex, and the second portrayed the inner workings of the government's poverty program.

Even more controversial was Wolfe's 1975 book on the American art world, The Painted Word. The art world reacted furiously, partly because Wolfe kept referring to it as the "art village," depicting it as a network of no more than three thousand people, of whom about three hundred lived outside the New York metropolitan area. In 1976 he published another collection, Mauve Gloves & Madmen, Clutter & Vine, which included his well-known essay "The Me Decade and the Third Great Awakening."

In 1979 Wolfe completed a book he had been at work on for more than six years, an account of the rocket airplane experiments of the post-World War II era and the early space program focusing upon the psychology of the rocket pilots and the astronauts and the competition between them. The Right Stuff became a bestseller and won the American Book Award for nonfiction, the National Institute of Arts and Letters Harold Vursell Award for prose style, and the Columbia Journalism Award.

"The right stuff," "radical chic," and "the Me Decade" (sometimes altered to "the Me Generation") all became popular phrases, but Wolfe seems proudest of "good ol' boy," which he had introduced to the written language in a 1964 article in Esquire about Junior Johnson, the North Carolina stock car-racing driver, which was called "The Last American Hero."

Wolfe had been illustrating his own work in newspapers and magazines since the 1950s, and in 1977 began doing a monthly illustrated feature for Harper's magazine called "In Our Time". The book, In Our Time, published in 1980, featured these drawings and many others. In 1981 he wrote a companion to The Painted Word entitled From Bauhaus to Our House, about the world of American architecture.

In 1984 and 1985 Wolfe wrote his first novel, The Bonfire of the Vanities, in serial form against a deadline of every two weeks for Rolling Stone magazine. It came out in book form in 1987. A story of the money-feverish 1980s in New York, The Bonfire of the Vanities was number one of the New York Times bestseller list for two months and remained on the list for more than a year, selling over 800,000 copies in hardcover. It also became the number-one bestselling paperback, with sales above two million.

In 1989 Wolfe outraged the literacy community with an essay in Harper's magazine called "Stalking the Billion-footed Beast." In it he argued that the only hope for the future of the American novel was a Zola-esque naturalism in which the novelist becomes the reporter -- as he had done in writing The Bonfire of the Vanities, which was recognized as the essential novel of America in the 1980s.

In 1996, Wolfe wrote the novella Ambush at Fort Bragg as a two-part series for Rolling Stone. In 1997 it was published as a book in France and Spain and as an audiotape in the United States. An account of a network television magazine show's attempt to trap three soldiers at Fort Bragg into confessing to the murder of one of their comrades, it grew out of what had been intended as one theme in a novel Wolfe was working on at that time. The novel, A Man in Full, was published in November of 1998. The book's protagonists are a sixty-year old Atlanta real estate developer whose empire has begun a grim slide toward bankruptcy and a twenty-three-year-old manual laborer who works in the freezer unit of a wholesale food warehouse in Alameda County, California, owned by the developer. Before the story ends, both have had to face the question of what is it that makes a man "a man in full" now, at the beginning of a new century and a new millennium.

A Man in Full headed the New York Times bestseller list for ten weeks and has sold nearly 1.4 million copies in hardcover. The book's tremendous commercial success, its enthusiastic welcome by reviewers, and Wolfe's appearance on the cover of Time magazine in his trademark white suit plus a white homburg and white kid gloves -- along with his claim that his sort of detailed realism was the future of the American novel, if it was going to have one -- provoked a furious reaction among other American novelists, notably John Updike, Norman Mailer, and John Irving.

Wolfe's latest novel, I Am Charlotte Simmons, explores the unique antics of college life. He lives in New York City with his wife, Sheila; his daughter, Alexandra; and his son, Tommy.

Author biography courtesy of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Read More Show Less
    1. Also Known As:
      Thomas Kennerly Wolfe Jr. (full name)
    2. Hometown:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      March 2, 1931
    2. Place of Birth:
      Richmond, Virginia
    1. Education:
      B.A. (cum laude), Washington and Lee University, 1951; Ph.D. in American Studies, Yale University, 1957
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

Prologue: Mutt on Fire

"And then say what? say, 'forget you're hungry, forget you got shot inna

back by some racist cop-Chuck was here? Chuck come up to


"No, I'll tell you what-"

"'Chuck come up to Harlem and-'"

''I'll tell you what-"

"Say, 'Chuck come up to Harlem and gonna take care a business for

the black community'?"

That does it.


It's one of those ungodly contralto cackles somewhere out there in

the audience. It's a sound from down so deep, from under so many lavish

layers, he knows exactly what she must look like. Two hundred

pounds, if she's an ounce! Built like an oil burner! The cackle sets off

the men. They erupt with those belly sounds he hates so much.

They go, "Hehhehheh ... unnnnhhhh-hunhhh ... That's right ...

Tell 'em, bro ... Yo ... "

Chuck! The insolent-he's right there, right there in the front-he

just called him a Charlie! Chuck is short for Charlie, and Charlie is the

old code name for a down-home white bigot. The insolence of it! The

impudence! The heat and glare are terrific. It makes the Mayor squint.

It's the TV lights. He's inside a blinding haze. He can barely make out

the heckler's face. He sees a tall silhouette and the fantastic bony angles

the man's elbows make when he throws his hands up in the air. And an

earring. The man has a big gold earring in one ear.

The Mayor leans into the microphone and says, "No, I'll tell you

what. Okay? I'll give you the actual figures. Okay?"

"We don't want your figures, man!"

Man, he says! The insolence! "You brought it up, my friend. So

you're gonna get the actual figures. Okay?"

"Don't you shine us up with no more your figures!"

Another eruption in the crowd, louder this time: "Unnnnh-unnnnhunnnh

... Tell 'im, bra ... Y' on the case ... Yo, Gober!"

"In this administration-and it's a matter of public record-the percentage

of the total annual budget for New York City-"

"Aw, maaaan," yells the heckler, "don't you stand there and shine us

up with no more your figures and your bureaucratic rhetoric!"

They love it. The insolence! The insolence sets off another eruption.

He peers through the scalding glare of the television lights. He keeps

squinting. He's aware of a great mass of silhouettes out in front of him.

The crowd swells up. The ceiling presses down. It's covered in beige

tiles. The tiles have curly incisions all over them. They're crumbling

around the edges. Asbestos! He knows it when he sees it! The faces they're

waiting for the beano, for the rock fight. Bloody noses!-that's

the idea. The next instant means everything. He can handle it! He can

handle hecklers! Only five-seven, but he's even better at it than Koch

used to be! He's the mayor of the greatest city on earth-New York!


"All right! You've had your fun, and now you're gonna shut up for a


That startles the heckler. He freezes. That's all the Mayor needs. He

knows how to do it.

"Youuuu asked meeeee a question, didn't you, and you got a bigggg

laugh from your claque. And so now youuuuu're gonna keep quiiiiet and

lissssten to the answer. Okay?"

"Say, claque?" The man has had his wind knocked out, but he's still

standing up.

"Okay? Now here are the statistics for youm community, right here,


"Say, claque?" The bastard has hold of this word claque like a bone.

"Ain' nobody can eat statistics, man!"

"Tell 'im, bra ... Yo ... Yo, Gober!"

"Let me finish. Do youuuuu think-"

"Don't percentage no annual budget with us, man! We want jobs!"

The crowd erupts again. It's worse than before. Much of it he can't

make out-interjections from deep in the bread basket. But there's this

Yo business. There's some loudmouth way in back with a voice that cuts

through everything.

"Yo, Gober! Yo, Gober! Yo, Gober!"

But he isn't saying Gober. He's saying Goldberg.

"Yo, Goldberg! Yo, Goldberg! Yo, Goldberg!"

It stuns him. In this place, in Harlem! Goldberg is the Harlem cognomen

for Jew. It's insolent-outrageous! -that anyone throws this vileness

in the face of the Mayor of New York City!

Boos, hisses,, grunts, belly laughs, shouts. They want to see some

loose teeth. It's out of control.

"Do you-"

It's no use. He can't make himself heard even with the microphone.

The hate in their faces! Pure poison! It's mesmerizing.

"Yo, Goldberg! Yo, Goldberg! Yo, Hymie!"

Hymie! That business! There's one of them yelling Goldberg and another

one yelling Hymie. Then it dawns on him. Reverend Bacon!

They're Bacon's people. He's sure of it. The civic-minded people who

come to public meetings in Harlem-the people Sheldon was supposed

to make sure filled up this hall-they wouldn't be out there yelling

these outrageous things. Bacon did this! Sheldon fucked up! Bacon got

his people in here!

A wave of the purest self-pity rolls over the Mayor. Out of the corner

of his eye he can see the television crews squirming around in the haze

of light. Their cameras are coming out of their heads like horns. They're

swiveling around this way and that. They're eating it up! They're here

for the brawl! They wouldn't lift a finger. They're cowards! Parasites!

The lice of public life!

In the next moment he has a terrible realization: "It's over. I can't believe

it. I've lost."

"No more your ... Outta here ... Boooo ... Don' wanna ... Yo,


Guliaggi, the head of the Mayor's plainclothes security detail, is

coming toward him from the side of the stage. The Mayor motions him

back with a low flap of his hand, without looking at him directly. What

could he do, anyway? He brought only four officers with him. He didn't

want to come up here with an army. The whole point was to show that

he could go to Harlem and hold a town-hall meeting, just the way he

could in Riverdale or Park Slope.

In the front row, through the haze, he catches the eye of Mrs. Langhorn,

the woman with the shingle hairdo, the head of the community

board, the woman who introduced him just-what?-minutes ago.

She purses her lips and cocks her head and starts shaking it. This look

is supposed to say, "I wish I could help you, but what can I do? Behold

the wrath of the people!" Oh, she's afraid like all the rest! She knows

she should stand up against this element! They'll go after black people

like her next! They'll be happy to do it! She knows that. But the good

people are intimidated! They don't dare do a thing! Back to blood!

Them and us!

"Go on home! ... Booooo ... Yagggghhh ... Yo!"

He tries the microphone again. "Is this what-is this what-"

Hopeless. Like yelling at the surf. He wants to spit in their eyes. He

wants to tell them he's not afraid. You're not making me look bad! You're

letting a handful of hustlers in this hall make all of Harlem look bad!

You let a couple of loudmouths call me Goldberg and Hymie, and you

don't shout them down-you shout me down! It's unbelievable! Do

you-you hardworking, respectable, God-fearing people of Harlem,

you Mrs. Langhorns, you civic-minded people-do you really think

they're your brothers! Who have your friends been all these years? The

Jews! And you let these hustlers call me a Charlie! They call me these

things, and you say nothing?

The whole hall appears to be jumping up and down. They're waving

their fists. Their mouths are open. They're screaming. If they jump any

higher, they'll bounce off the ceiling.

It'll be on TV. The whole city will see it. They'll love it. Harlem rises

up! What a show! Not the hustlers and the operators and the players rise

up-but Harlem rises up! All of black New York rises up! He's only

mayor for some of the people! He's the mayor of White New York! Set

fire to the mutt! The Italians will watch this on TV, and they'll love it.

And the Irish. Even the Wasps. They won't know what they're looking at.

They'll sit in their co-ops on Park and Fifth and East Seventy-second

Street and Sutton Place, and they'll shiver with the violence of it and enjoy

the show. Cattle! Birdbrains! Rosebuds! Goyim! You don't even

know, do you? Do you really think this is your city any longer? Open

your eyes! The greatest city of the twentieth century! Do you think

money will keep it yours?

Come down from your swell co-ops, you general partners and merger

lawyers! It's the Third World down there! Puerto Ricans, West Indians,

Haitians, Dominicans, Cubans, Colombians, Hondurans, Koreans,

Chinese, Thais, Vietnamese, Ecuadorians, Panamanians, Filipinos, Albanians,

Senegalese, and Afro-Americans! Go visit the frontiers, you

gutless wonders! Morningside Heights, St. Nicholas Park, Washington

Heights, Fort Tryon-por que pagar mas! The Bronx-the Bronx is finished

for you! Riverdale is just a little freeport up there! Pelham

Parkway-keep the corridor open to Westchester! Brooklyn-your

Brooklyn is no more! Brooklyn Heights, Park Slope-little Hong Kongs,

that's all! And Queens! Jackson Heights, Elmhurst, Hollis, Jamaica,

Ozone Park-whose is it? Do you know? And where does that leave

Ridgewood, Bayside, and Forest Hills? Have you ever thought about

that! And Staten Island! Do you Saturday do-it-yourselfers really think

you're snug in your little rug? You don't think the future knows how to

cross a bridge? And you, you Wasp charity-bailers sitting on your

mounds of inherited money up in your co-ops with the twelve-foot ceilings

and the two wings, one for you and one for the help, do you really

think you're impregnable? And you German-Jewish financiers who

have finally made it into the same buildings, the better to insulate yourselves

from the shtetl hordes, do you really think you're insulated from

the Third World?

You poor fatties! You marshmallows! Hens! Cows! You wait'll you

have a Reverend Bacon for a mayor, and a City Council and a Board of

Estimate with a bunch of Reverend Bacons from one end of the chamber

to the other! You'll get to know them then, all right! They'll come see

you! They'll come see you at 60 Wall and Number One Chase Manhattan

Plaza! They'll sit on your desks and drum their fingers! They'll dust

out your safe-deposit boxes for you, free of charge-

Completely crazy, these things roaring through his head! Absolutely

paranoid! Nobody's going to elect Bacon to anything. Nobody's going to

march downtown. He knows that. But he feels so alone! Abandoned!

Misunderstood! Me! You wait'll you don't have me any longer! See how

you like it then! And you let me stand here alone at this lectern with a

god damned asbestos ceiling corning down on my head-

"Boooo! ... Yegggghhh! ... Yaaaggghhh! ... Yo! ... Goldberg!"

There's a terrific commotion on one side of the stage. The TV lights

are right in his face. A whole lot of pushing and shoving-he sees a cameraman

go down. Some of the bastards are heading for the stairs to the

stage, and the television crews are in the way. So they're going over

them. Shoving-shoving somebody back down the stairs-his men, the

plainclothes detail, the big one, Norrejo-Norrejo's shoving somebody

back down the stairs. Something hits the Mayor on the shoulder. It hurts

like hell! There on the floor-a jar of mayonnaise, an eight-ounce jar of

Hellmann's mayonnaise. Half full! Half consumed! Somebody has

thrown a half-eaten jar of Hellmann's mayonnaise at him! In that instant

the most insignificant thing takes over his mind. Who in the name

of God would bring a half-eaten eight-ounce jar of Hellmann's mayonnaise

to a public meeting?

The goddamned lights! People are up on the stage ... a lot of thrashing

about ... a regular melee ... Norrejo grabs some big devil around

the waist and sticks his leg behind him and throws him to the floor. The

other two detectives, Holt and Danforth, have their backs to the Mayor.

They're crouched like blocking backs protecting a passer. Guliaggi is

right beside him.

"Get behind me," says Guliaggi. "We're going through that door."

Is he smiling? Guliaggi seems to have this little smile on his face. He

motions his head toward a door at the rear of the stage. He's short, he has

a small head, a low forehead, small narrow eyes, a flat nose, a wide mean

mouth with a narrow mustache. The Mayor keeps staring at his mouth. Is

that a smile? It can't be, but maybe it is. This strange mean twist to his lips

seems to be saying: "It's been your show up to now, but now it's mine."

Somehow the smile decides the issue. The Mayor gives up his

Custer's command post at the lectern. He gives himself over to this little

rock. Now the others are closed in around him, too, Norrejo, Holt, Danforth.

They're around him like the four corners of a pen. People are all

over the stage. Guliaggi and Norrejo are muscling their way through the

mob. The Mayor is right on their heels. Snarling faces are all around

him. There's some character barely two feet from him who keeps jumping

up and yelling, "You little white-haired pussy!" He keeps saying it.

"You little white-haired pussy!"

Right in front of him-the big heckler himself! The one with the elbows

and the gold earring! Guliaggi is between the Mayor and the heckler,

but the heckler towers over Guliaggi. He must be six five. He

screams at the Mayor, right in his face:

"Go on back-oof!"

All at once the big son of a bitch is sinking, with his mouth open and

his eyes bugged out. Guliaggi has driven his elbow and forearm into the

man's solar plexus.

Guliaggi reaches the door and opens it. The Mayor follows. He feels

the other detectives pushing him through from behind. He sprawls

against Guliaggi's back. The guy's a piece of stone!

They're going down a stairway. They're clattering on some metal

strips. He's in one piece. The mob isn't even on his heels. He's safe-his

heart sinks. They're not even trying to follow him. They never really

tried to touch him. And in that moment ... he knows. He knows even

before his mind can put it all together.

"I did the wrong thing. I gave in to that little smile. I panicked. I've

lost it all."

"Prologue: Mutt on Fire" excerpt from The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe. The Bonfire of the Vanities copyright © 1987 by Tom Wolfe. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission of Picador and Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 50 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 50 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 4, 2005

    Bonfire remains afire

    Almost two decades after this <i>New York Times</i> bestseller hit the shelves, and only after witnessing author Tom Wolfe on a recent 'Book Talk' interview on CSPAN, did I decide to read 'The Bonfire of the Vanities'. I have not seen the movie of the same name, however, I understand from the interview, that it was 'poorly done.' My 637 paged copy of this trade paperback began with a confusing confrontation between the mayor of New York and a Jesse Jackson-type Black spokesman. But I didn't let that stop me. Prior to its reading, I imagined the book to be about the high life of the rich, and it certainly is, however it is actually more of a richly fleshed-out 'Law and Order' type episode spread over the thirty days during which I consumed it. Ignoring the New York and Southern America dialects spelled out by author Wolfe: 'That's nuthun Shuhmun' (and I'm not certain how necessary those were for a book created to be read silently to one's self) I soon found myself, heart throbbing, in the supple leather seats of a black, two-door Mercedes 'roadster', rocketing up a highway ramp somewhere in the Bronx, and hooked on this finely written piece. Talented authors, whether by design or not, force their readers to forever carry pieces of their story. From Hemmingway's 'For Whom the Bell Tolls' I will always remember the long walk of the captured with villagers on either side, ending with a forced leap to death from the cliff at the end of the path. From 'Bonfire' I will always see in my mind the extravagant parties with the overly gracious hostess meeting incoming guests and guiding them to clusters of 'conversational bouquets', like a gardener planting bulbs next to one another in the freshly turned warm earth of her garden. The author calls the wives of these millionaires, who have starved themselves in the late 1980s fashion of Karen Carpenter, 'X Rays.' If you are searching for a book with a clear cut, warm and fuzzy happy ending, this work, ending with a five-page epilogue isn't it. However, if you are interested a reading that has plenty of twists and turns in the burroughs of New York and visits courtrooms, lawyers, cops, thugs, luxuriant Fifth Avenue Townhomes, bond market trading floors, eleven-dollar-a-drink restaurants, the alcohol-soaked psyche of a tabloid journalist, and the tortured egos of married men who can't keep their pants zipped, all the while painting word pictures that will remain in the frame of your mind for years, read 'The Bonfire of the Vanities.'

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 18, 2003


    Simply stated, the best book I have read. Mr. Wolfe has the ability to put the reader inside the character's head. The initial police questioning of Sherman McCoy had me edgy and feeling the anxiety of the character as if I were the one being investigated. A great read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 15, 2001


    Bonfire is an amazing epic novel of the failure of the human spirit. It is truthful,synical,hilarious and brilliant. There are not many characters in this book who are worthy of our sympathy. But perhaps the anti-hero Sherman Mccoy comes closest. For as his world and illusions become shattered; we realize that we are all victims to the sin of vanity. This is one of the greatest novels ever written.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 25, 2001

    A modern American Classic!

    I have read this book three times over the last 11 years, and I find something new everytime. Being in the securities industry, I enjoy the description of the trading floor of Pierce and Pierce. Also, I liked the scene where Sherman stumbles in trying to explain to his daughter what he does for a living, but his wife describes his job as a bond salesman as one who collects 'golden crumbs'. I hope someday to describe better to my child what I do for a living better than Sherman did! Another memorable scene is the party one with the Golden Hillbilly opera singer. Along with Wolfe's latest, A Man in Full, a modern American classic.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 1, 2014

    Free ipad

    Kiss your hand and post this on other books

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 20, 2013

    Highly Recommended

    You will not look at the news media the same after reading this book. Because of the recent racial uproar I am reading the book again.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2012

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2012

    Pregnant Mares and Foals den


    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 20, 2011

    My Favorite Book

    This book is an acurate view of American society. It turns the lense on us, and no one is spared. A true masterpiece of American liturature. I have read it multiple times over the years, it not only holds up every time, it gets better with each reading.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 14, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Excellent Voice

    The audiobook for this novel is terrific. Despite the obvious expletives inherent in the novel, Joe Barrett does an excellent job of taking Wolfe's dialogue to the next level. The book is, by itself, an excellent satire of 1980's wall street and Barrett only helps to give additional voice to this destruction of a wall street Oedipus.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 18, 2008

    Just perfect

    In my opinion this book had been oustanding this is because, as a person who doesn't speak English, I have found this book very challenging, lots of hard words, that would help later on, thats if you were getting into a lawying school, I would certainly recomend this book because it happens to be written in a style where there are many puzzle pieces that you would have to put together. I am sure people that have read this book would agree, that it is very interesting. Because this book is just plain fantastic I really recomend it for an English class too.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 22, 2008

    A complex and significan book

    There are many things about Bonfire of the Vanities that was complex and hard to comprehend, yet I find the book to be very interesting because of the amount of body it has to it. It is a rather long read but once one can get past the first hundred or so pages the story starts to fall into itself. I don't know if just anyone could pick this book up, I'd say one must be interested in it in order to get through it.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 4, 2006

    Like books?...Read this.

    I was unable to put this book down. I woke up, grabbed the book from the shelf above the bed, and read. Well done.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 5, 2005

    Great Book

    The Bonfire of the Vanites was an excellent book. I would recommend this book to anybody who had lots of spare time and a great since of adventure. The more that I read this book the more that i started to enjoy the writer and the way that he writes. He showed how to become a complex reader because everytime that the next chapter showed up, he brought in a brand new character and it was such a great book. Loved it!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 2, 2005

    Just Pulls You In!

    I personally did not think the prologue was a good start to this great book. However, once passed it, I had a hard time putting the book down. The reality of this book is amazing. From the social life, to the personal lives of the characters it really captures everyday America. With sudden twist everywhere and the soap opera effect of getting into a scene and then it changing to something completely different, kept my mind turning and my eyes not to peal away from the pages. Overall it was Fabulous book!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 2, 2000

    Best book ever

    It's not often that you could say that a book changed your life, but Tom Wolfe's Bonfire of the Vanities did just that for me. I was a college drop-out doing nothing with my life and one day my sister gave me this book. I'm not a big reader but I could not put this book down. I became completely involved with the great characters in this book, young attorney, Larry Kramer, writer Peter Fallow, Reverand Reginald Bacon, and of course, Sherman McCoy. Wolfe wrote in such terrific detail that you feel as if you'd known these characters all your life. I started talking about them in conversations like they were close friends of mine. The story itself is incredible, taking you through the highs and lows of four main characters with Sherman being the tie that binds them all. Now, as for the life-changing part, I knew very little about the stock market, but after seeing the high-life that Sherman led, the luxury car, the Park Ave. Co-Op, and of course his lovely ladies, wife Judy and mistress, Maria Ruskin, i knew thats what i wanted for myself(except for the mistress, of course). So, I took a couple of classes, read a few books and I passed my stock broker exam on the first try. Wall Street has been great to me--I have a job I love, great friends and durroundings and I met my wife at my firm. In short, I have never been happier and I have Tom Wolfe and his tale of a wealthy financier to thank.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 28, 2000

    An Average Classic

    Although I was instantly impressed with Wolfe's fabulous idea for the book, I was disappointed with is overly 'stylistic' style. Great story- not well written.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 27, 2000

    Superior Reading

    What a novel ! This is one novel that truly deserves all the high praise it received. Based in New York, but basically covers modern America in general, this novel hits the bull's eye. A superb storyteller.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 4, 2000

    The greatest book I've ever read

    Not only is this book an example of storytelling at its greatest, but Wolfe's commentary on human nature is outstanding

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 15, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 50 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)