The Bonfire of the Vanities

The Bonfire of the Vanities

by Tom Wolfe

NOOK BookFirst Edition (eBook - First Edition)

$9.99 View All Available Formats & Editions

Available on Compatible NOOK Devices and the free NOOK Apps.
WANT A NOOK?  Explore Now

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781429960564
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date: 02/21/2002
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 704
Sales rank: 8,094
File size: 745 KB

About the Author

Tom Wolfe (1930-2018) was one of the founders of the New Journalism movement and the author of such contemporary classics as The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, The Right Stuff, and Radical Chic&Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers, as well as the novels The Bonfire of the Vanities, A Man in Full, and I Am Charlotte Simmons. As a reporter, he wrote articles for The Washington Post, the New York Herald Tribune, Esquire, and New York magazine, and is credited with coining the term, “The Me Decade.”

Among his many honors, Tom was awarded the National Book Award, the John Dos Passos Award, the Washington Irving Medal for Literary Excellence, the National Humanities Medal, and the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.

A native of Richmond, Virginia, he earned his B.A. at Washington and Lee University, graduating cum laude, and a Ph.D. in American studies at Yale. He lived in New York City.


Tom Wolfe (1930-2018) was one of the founders of the New Journalism movement and the author of such contemporary classics as The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, The Right Stuff, and Radical Chic&Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers, as well as the novels The Bonfire of the Vanities, A Man in Full, and I Am Charlotte Simmons. As a reporter, he wrote articles for The Washington Post, the New York Herald Tribune, Esquire, and New York magazine, and is credited with coining the term, “The Me Decade.”

Among his many honors, Tom was awarded the National Book Award, the John Dos Passos Award, the Washington Irving Medal for Literary Excellence, the National Humanities Medal, and National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.

A native of Richmond, Virginia, he earned his B.A. at Washington and Lee University, graduating cum laude, and a Ph.D. in American studies at Yale. He lived in New York City.

Hometown:

New York, New York

Date of Birth:

March 2, 1931

Place of Birth:

Richmond, Virginia

Education:

B.A. (cum laude), Washington and Lee University, 1951; Ph.D. in American Studies, Yale University, 1957

Read an Excerpt

The Bonfire of the Vanities


By Tom Wolfe

Picador

Copyright © 1987 Tom Wolfe
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-6056-4



CHAPTER 1

The Master of the Universe


At that very moment, in the very sort of Park Avenue co-op apartment that so obsessed the Mayor ... twelve-foot ceilings ... two wings, one for the white Anglo-Saxon Protestants who own the place and one for the help ... Sherman McCoy was kneeling in his front hall trying to put a leash on a dachshund. The floor was a deep green marble, and it went on and on. It led to a five-foot-wide walnut staircase that swept up in a sumptuous curve to the floor above. It was the sort of apartment the mere thought of which ignites flames of greed and covetousness under people all over New York and, for that matter, all over the world. But Sherman burned only with the urge to get out of this fabulous spread of his for thirty minutes.

So here he was, down on both knees, struggling with a dog. The dachshund, he figured, was his exit visa.

Looking at Sherman McCoy, hunched over like that and dressed the way he was, in his checked shirt, khaki pants, and leather boating moccasins, you would have never guessed what an imposing figure he usually cut. Still young ... thirty-eight years old ... tall ... almost six-one ... terrific posture ... terrific to the point of imperious ... as imperious as his daddy, the Lion of Dunning Sponget ... a full head of sandy-brown hair ... a long nose ... a prominent chin ... He was proud of his chin. The McCoy chin; the Lion had it, too. It was a manly chin, a big round chin such as Yale men used to have in those drawings by Gibson and Leyendecker, an aristocratic chin, if you want to know what Sherman thought. He was a Yale man himself.

But at this moment his entire appearance was supposed to say: "I'm only going out to walk the dog."

The dachshund seemed to know what was ahead. He kept ducking away from the leash. The beast's stunted legs were deceiving. If you tried to lay hands on him, he turned into a two-foot tube packed with muscle. In grappling with him, Sherman had to lunge. And when he lunged, his kneecap hit the marble floor, and the pain made him angry.

"C'mon, Marshall," he kept muttering. "Hold still, damn it."

The beast ducked again, and he hurt his knee again, and now he resented not only the beast but his wife, too. It was his wife's delusions of a career as an interior decorator that had led to this ostentatious spread of marble in the first place. The tiny black grosgrain cap on the toe of a woman's shoe — — she was standing there.

"You're having a time, Sherman. What on earth are you doing?"

Without looking up: "I'm taking Marshall for a wa-a-a-a-a-alk."

Walk came out as a groan, because the dachshund attempted a fishtail maneuver and Sherman had to wrap his arm around the dog's midsection.

"Did you know it was raining?"

Still not looking up: "Yes, I know." Finally he managed to snap the leash on the animal's collar.

"You're certainly being nice to Marshall all of a sudden."

Wait a minute. Was this irony? Did she suspect something? He looked up.

But the smile on her face was obviously genuine, altogether pleasant ... a lovely smile, in fact ... Still a very good-looking woman, my wife ... with her fine thin features, her big clear blue eyes, her rich brown hair ... But she's forty years old! ... No getting around it ... Today good-looking ... Tomorrow they'll be talking about what a handsome woman she is ... Not her fault ... But not mine, either!

"I have an idea," she said. "Why don't you let me walk Marshall? Or I'll get Eddie to do it. You go upstairs and read Campbell a story before she goes to sleep. She'd love it. You're not home this early very often. Why don't you do that?"

He stared at her. It wasn't a trick! She was sincere! And yet zip zip zip zip zip zip zip with a few swift strokes, a few little sentences, she had ... tied him in knots! — thongs of guilt and logic! Without even trying!

The fact that Campbell might be lying in her little bed — my only child! — the utter innocence of a six-year-old! — wishing that he would read her a bedtime story ... while he was ... doing whatever it was he was now doing ... Guilt! ... The fact that he usually got home too late to see her at all ... Guilt on top of guilt! ... He doted on Campbell! — loved her more than anything in the world! ... To make matters worse — the logic of it! The sweet wifely face he was now staring at had just made a considerate and thoughtful suggestion, a logical suggestion ... so logical he was speechless! There weren't enough white lies in the world to get around such logic! And she was only trying to be nice!

"Go ahead," she said. "Campbell will be so pleased. I'll tend to Marshall."

The world was upside down. What was he, a Master of the Universe, doing down here on the floor, reduced to ransacking his brain for white lies to circumvent the sweet logic of his wife? The Masters of the Universe were a set of lurid, rapacious plastic dolls that his otherwise perfect daughter liked to play with. They looked like Norse gods who lifted weights, and they had names such as Dracon, Ahor, Mangelred, and Blutong. They were unusually vulgar, even for plastic toys. Yet one fine day, in a fit of euphoria, after he had picked up the telephone and taken an order for zero-coupon bonds that had brought him a $50,000 commission, just like that, this very phrase had bubbled up into his brain. On Wall Street he and a few others — how many? — three hundred, four hundred, five hundred? — had become precisely that ... Masters of the Universe. There was ... no limit whatsoever! Naturally he had never so much as whispered this phrase to a living soul. He was no fool. Yet he couldn't get it out of his head. And here was the Master of the Universe, on the floor with a dog, hog-tied by sweetness, guilt, and logic ... Why couldn't he (being a Master of the Universe) simply explain it to her? Look, Judy, I still love you and I love our daughter and I love our home and I love our life, and I don't want to change any of it — it's just that I, a Master of the Universe, a young man still in the season of the rising sap, deserve more from time to time, when the spirit moves me —

— but he knew he could never put any such thought into words. So resentment began to bubble up into his brain ... In a way she brought it on herself, didn't she ... Those women whose company she now seems to prize ... those ... those ... The phrase pops into his head at that very instant: social X-rays ... They keep themselves so thin, they look like X-ray pictures ... You can see lamplight through their bones ... while they're chattering about interiors and landscape gardening ...]IT Land encasing their scrawny shanks in metallic Lycra tubular tights for their Sports Training classes ... And it hasn't helped any, has it! ... See how drawn her face and neck look ... He concentrated on her face and neck ... drawn ... No doubt about it ... Sports Training ... turning into one of them —

He managed to manufacture just enough resentment to ignite the famous McCoy temper.

He could feel his face grow hot. He put his head down and said, "Juuuuuudy ..." It was a shout stifled by teeth. He pressed the thumb and the first two fingers of his left hand together and held them in front of his clamped jaws and blazing eyes, and he said:

"Look ... I'm all — set — to — walk — the — dog ... So I'm — going — out — to — walk — the — dog ... Okay?" Halfway through it, he knew it was totally out of proportion to ... to ... but he couldn't hold back. That, after all, was the secret of the McCoy temper ... on Wall Street ... wherever ... the imperious excess.

Judy's lips tightened. She shook her head.

"Please do what you want," she said tonelessly. Then she turned away and walked across the marble hall and ascended the sumptuous stairs.

Still on his knees, he looked at her, but she didn't look back. Please do what you want. He had run right over her. Nothing to it. But it was a hollow victory.

Another spasm of guilt —

The Master of the Universe stood up and managed to hold on to the leash and struggle into his raincoat. It was a worn but formidable rubberized British riding mac, full of flaps, straps, and buckles. He had bought it at Knoud on Madison Avenue. Once, he had considered its aged look as just the thing, after the fashion of the Boston Cracked Shoe look. Now he wondered. He yanked the dachshund along on the leash and went from the entry gallery out into the elevator vestibule and pushed the button.


Rather than continue to pay around-the-clock shifts of Irishmen from Queens and Puerto Ricans from the Bronx $200,000 a year to run the elevators, the apartment owners had decided two years ago to convert the elevators to automatic. Tonight that suited Sherman fine. In this outfit, with this squirming dog in tow, he didn't feel like standing in an elevator with an elevator man dressed up like an 1870 Austrian army colonel. The elevator descended — and came to a stop two floors below. Browning. The door opened, and the smooth-jowled bulk of Pollard Browning stepped on. Browning looked Sherman and his country outfit and the dog up and down and said, without a trace of a smile, "Hello, Sherman."

"Hello, Sherman" was on the end of a ten-foot pole and in a mere four syllables conveyed the message: "You and your clothes and your animal are letting down our new mahogany-paneled elevator."

Sherman was furious but nevertheless found himself leaning over and picking the dog up off the floor. Browning was the president of the building's co-op board. He was a New York boy who had emerged from his mother's loins as a fifty-year-old partner in Davis Polk and president of the Downtown Association. He was only forty but had looked fifty for the past twenty years. His hair was combed back smoothly over his round skull. He wore an immaculate navy suit, a white shirt, a shepherd's check necktie, and no raincoat. He faced the elevator door, then turned his head, took another look at Sherman, said nothing, and turned back.

Sherman had known him ever since they were boys at the Buckley School. Browning had been a fat, hearty, overbearing junior snob who at the age of nine knew how to get across the astonishing news that McCoy was a hick name (and a hick family), as in Hatfields and McCoys, whereas he, Browning, was a true Knickerbocker. He used to call Sherman "Sherman McCoy the Mountain Boy."

When they reached the ground floor, Browning said, "You know it's raining, don't you?"

"Yes."

Browning looked at the dachshund and shook his head. "Sherman McCoy. Friend to man's best friend."

Sherman felt his face getting hot again. He said, "That's it?"

"What's it?"

"You had from the eighth floor to here to think up something bright, and that's it?" It was supposed to sound like amiable sarcasm, but he knew his anger had slipped out around the edges.

"I don't know what you're talking about," said Browning, and he walked on ahead. The doorman smiled and nodded and held the door open for him. Browning walked out under the awning to his car. His chauffeur held the car door open for him. Not a drop of rain touched his glossy form, and he was off, smoothly, immaculately, into the swarm of red taillights heading down Park Avenue. No ratty riding mac encumbered the sleek fat back of Pollard Browning.

In fact, it was raining only lightly, and there was no wind, but the dachshund was having none of it. He was beginning to struggle in Sherman's arms. The power of the little bastard! He put the dog down on the runner under the awning and then stepped out into the rain with the leash. In the darkness the apartment buildings on the other side of the avenue were a serene black wall holding back the city's sky, which was a steaming purple. It glowed, as if inflamed by a fever.

Hell, it wasn't so bad out here. Sherman pulled, but the dog dug into the runner with his toenails.

"Come on, Marshall."

The doorman was standing outside the door, watching him.

"I don't think he's too happy about it, Mr. McCoy."

"I'm not, either, Eddie." And never mind the commentary, thought Sherman. "C'mon, c'mon, c'mon, Marshall."

By now Sherman was out in the rain giving the leash a pretty good pull, but the dachshund wasn't budging. So he picked him up and took him off the rubber runner and set him down on the sidewalk. The dog tried to bolt for the door. Sherman couldn't give him any more slack on the leash or else he was going to be right back where he started. So now he was leaning one way and the dog was leaning the other, with the leash taut between them. It was a tug-of-war between a man and a dog ... on Park Avenue. Why the hell didn't the doorman get back in the building where he belonged?

Sherman gave the leash a real jerk. The dachshund skidded forward a few inches on the sidewalk. You could hear his toenails scraping. Well, maybe if he dragged him hard enough, he would give up and start walking just to keep from being dragged.

"C'mon, Marshall! We're only going around the corner!"

He gave the leash another jerk and then kept pulling for all he was worth. The dog slid forward a couple of feet. He slid! He wouldn't walk. He wouldn't give up. The beast's center of gravity seemed to be at the middle of the earth. It was like trying to drag a sled with a pile of bricks on it. Christ, if he could only get around the corner. That was all he wanted. Why was it that the simplest things — he gave the leash another jerk and then he kept the pressure on. He was leaning like a sailor into the wind. He was getting hot inside his rubberized riding mac. The rain was running down his face. The dachshund had his feet splayed out on the sidewalk. His shoulder muscles were bulging. He was thrashing from side to side. His neck was stretched out. Thank God, he wasn't barking, at least! He slid. Christ, you could hear it! You could hear his toenails scraping along the sidewalk. He wouldn't give an inch. Sherman had his head down, his shoulders hunched over, dragging this animal through the darkness and the rain on Park Avenue. He could feel the rain on the back of his neck.

He squatted down and picked up the dachshund, catching a glimpse of Eddie, the doorman, as he did. Still watching! The dog began bucking and thrashing. Sherman stumbled. He looked down. The leash had gotten wrapped around his legs. He began gimping along the sidewalk. Finally he made it around the corner to the pay telephone. He put the dog down on the sidewalk.

Christ! Almost got away! He grabs the leash just in time. He's sweating. His head is soaked with rain. His heart is pounding. He sticks one arm through the loop in the leash. The dog keeps struggling. The leash is wrapped around Sherman's legs again. He picks up the telephone and cradles it between his shoulder and his ear and fishes around in his pocket for a quarter and drops it in the slot and dials.

Three rings, and a woman's voice: "Hello?"

But it was not Maria's voice. He figured it must be her friend Germaine, the one she sublet the apartment from. So he said: "May I speak to Maria, please?"

The woman said: "Sherman? Is that you?"

Christ! It's Judy! He's dialed his own apartment! He's aghast — paralyzed!

"Sherman?"

He hangs up. Oh Jesus. What can he do? He'll bluff it out. When she asks him, he'll say he doesn't know what she's talking about. After all, he said only five or six words. How can she be sure?

But it was no use. She'd be sure, all right. Besides, he was no good at bluffing. She'd see right through him. Still, what else could he do?

He stood there in the rain, in the dark, by the telephone. The water had worked its way down inside his shirt collar. He was breathing heavily. He was trying to figure out how bad it was going to be. What would she do? What would she say? How angry would she be? This time she'd have something she could really work on. She deserved her scene if she wanted it. He had been truly stupid. How could he have done such a thing? He berated himself. He was no longer angry at Judy at all. Could he bluff it out, or had he really done it now? Had he really hurt her?

All at once Sherman was aware of a figure approaching him on the sidewalk, in the wet black shadows of the town houses and the trees. Even from fifty feet away, in the darkness, he could tell. It was that deep worry that lives in the base of the skull of every resident of Park Avenue south of Ninety-sixth Street — a black youth, tall, rangy, wearing white sneakers. Now he was forty feet away, thirty-five. Sherman stared at him. Well, let him come! I'm not budging! It's my territory! I'm not giving way for any street punks!

The black youth suddenly made a ninety-degree turn and cut straight across the street to the sidewalk on the other side. The feeble yellow of a sodium-vapor streetlight reflected for an instant on his face as he checked Sherman out.

He had crossed over! What a stroke of luck!


(Continues...)

Excerpted from The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe. Copyright © 1987 Tom Wolfe. Excerpted by permission of Picador.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Contents

Prologue: Mutt on Fire,
1. The Master of the Universe,
2. Gibraltar,
3. From the Fiftieth Floor,
4. King of the Jungle,
5. The Girl with Brown Lipstick,
6. A Leader of the People,
7. Catching the Fish,
8. The Case,
9. Some Brit Named Fallow,
10. Saturday's Saturnine Lunchtime,
11. The Words on the Floor,
12. The Last of the Great Smokers,
13. The Day-Glo Eel,
14. I Don't Know How to Lie,
15. The Masque of the Red Death,
16. Tawkin Irish,
17. The Favor Bank,
18. Shuhmun,
19. Donkey Loyalty,
20. Calls from Above,
21. The Fabulous Koala,
22. Styrofoam Peanuts,
23. Inside the Cavity,
24. The Informants,
25. We the Jury,
26. Death New York Style,
27. Hero of the Hive,
28. Off to a Better Place,
29. The Rendezvous,
30. An Able Pupil,
31. Into the Solar Plexus,
Epilogue: Financier Is Arraigned,

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

The Bonfire of the Vanities 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 70 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Although too descriptive at times times,I was taken by the depth and passion of the narrative and the brilliance of the characters development .Very interesting plot!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Almost two decades after this New York Times 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.'
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Katie_H on LibraryThing 5 months ago
A Fantastic, but very frustrating story, this novel epitomizes New York City in the 80s in a saga of racial and socioeconomic conflict. The story follows the lives of several individuals who are connected to a highly publicized and politicized hit-and-run case. A car belonging to Sherman McCoy, a successful, womanizing Wall Street broker and Park Avenue resident, hits a black man in the Bronx. While the man is in a coma, a Harlem preacher seizes the opportunity to advance his political agenda, enticing District Attorney, Abe Weiss, and Peter Fallow, a tabloid journalist, to become involved. The prosecuter jumps at the opportunity to publicly take down the socialite, Sherman, in the name of social justice and equality. All in all, it is an allegorical view of society that is still relevant today, illustrating the dire effects that occur when selfishness overtakes one's life and goals for oneself. The only drawback to this book is its length, it is more than 600 pages, but the action never ceases.
SeriousGrace on LibraryThing 5 months ago
This is, by far, the most wicked of social satires that I have read so far. Wolfe's world in The Bonfire of the Vanities is a delicious clash of wealth and poverty, prejudices and avarice, sex and scandal. It seems like the perfect movie for the self indulgent 1980s. There is not a single likable character in the entire story. Everyone is on their way to being corrupted by greed. Greed for money, greed for power, greed for what they don't have. In their worlds the grass is always greener on the other side of Central park, the other side of the marriage.Bonfire of the Vanities takes a single incident and illustrates the domino effect one wrong turn and one bad mistake can have. Sherman McCoy is an unhappy Wall Street bonds man who is having an affair with the wife of an aging billionaire. He isn't supposed to be with her, she isn't supposed to be with him - a typical scenario for the story. So, when they take a wrong turn and end up lost in a bad section of the the Bronx their car strikes a black teenage boy, possibly killing him. They argue their way out of going to the police, convincing themselves it didn't happen the way each of them think. Deciding not to tell is their downfall.When the political Reverend Bacon hears of this "accident" from the mother of the victim the racial significance of the event is not lost on him. Witnesses claim the driver was white so he pushes alcoholic journalist, Peter Fallow, to pursue the story. Peter's piece about a black youth who was the victim of a hit and run sends the media into a frenzy. Soon Bronx District Attorney Abe Weiss, up for re-election, is out for blood. He knows this is the perfect platform for garnering votes: hang the hit and run driver whatever it takes. Larry Kramer, assistant D.A., does exactly that with barely any evidence: an undamaged car, an eyewitness, and Sherman McCoy's reluctance to cooperate.
atomheart on LibraryThing 5 months ago
The story is fantastic, but what makes the book so superb is Wolfe's ability to capture the time and setting in which the stories take place in so successfully and articulately; this one being the dynamic times of NYC during the 80's.So while you're enjoying an entertaining story, you're also learning about culture and society during a dynamic time in history, all through the quirky and creative words of Tom Wolfe.
literarilyspeaking1 on LibraryThing 5 months ago
I absolutely loved this book. I can't count the number of times I laughed out loud. This was my first Wolfe, but I'd heard he is a gifted prose writer. That is absolutely true. I was trying, over the course of reading this book, to think of how I would describe Wolfe's prose, and the only word I could come up with was "crackling." The words just leap off the page and come at you at a rapid-fire pace. Here's an example:The fever began to rise again. Suppose something did get in the papers ... even a hint ... How could he ever put the Giscard deal together under a cloud like that? ... He'd be finished! ... finished! ... And even as he quaked with fear of such a catastrophe, he knew he was letting himself wallow in it for a superstitious reason. If you consciously envisioned something that dreadful, then it couldn't possibly take place, could it ... God or Fate would refuse to be anticipated by a mere mortal, wouldn't He ...Wolfe is also great at writing characters. Every single one of the characters in here, with the exception of some of the people we only see in passing, have their little back stories and quirks. That's one of the reasons this novel is so darn long; it takes a lot of time to draw up as many characters as Wolfe does. The one thing I found with this book, though, is that it was a lot like War and Peace for me, in that I didn't really like any of the characters, and I wasn't really sure who I was supposed to like. I didn't like Sherman at first, mostly because he seemed like a spoiled rich guy who was cheating on his wife. But, as the story progressed, I grew to feel sort of sorry for him, but all that pity ended near the close of the book.I started out liking Larry Kramer, but quickly sunk in my eyes for a number of reasons, including cheating on his wife and trying to pad his case to make himself look good. I can't stand when characters are unfaithful to their partners. It bugs me in fiction because it's something that bugs me in real life, so I think that's one of the main reasons I couldn't actually like either Sherman or Larry.One of the things I found really interesting about this book was that every character of a minority persuasion seemed to be a stereotype. I know Wolfe was going for capturing the milieu of New York in the 1980s, and that atmosphere included a lot of prejudice and racial tension between whites and blacks (Not to mention the racial tension is key to his plot), but I think some readers could easily be turned off by the stereotypical nature of a lot of the characters. Personally, the stereotypical characters just made me really, really frustrated because they were just so... annoying ... that I couldn't stand it when they came into the picture.The character in particular I'm thinking of is Reverend Bacon. He is a preacher who takes the racial cause into his own hands, often blowing situations and facts out of proportion to get noticed. He leads such a vehement campaign against the Bronx District Attorney because he says that the office (Populated by white men) is ignoring the case (In reality, there's basically no evidence to go on for a really long time) that the DA's office, once they finally get Sherman into custody, holds him up as a whipping boy. Sherman's attorney makes certain deals with one of the assistant DAs -- Deals such as quick processing when Sherman's arrested, which are fairly common from what I know of the law -- but those deals are thrown out the window simply because the DA is up for reelection in a highly minority area and he knows that he must pander to the people. I guess, looking back on it, I could say that it's a combination of Bacon's accusations and the DA's political desires that made me mad. I guess that's what Wolfe was going for the whole time. Hmm...I have to say, though, that the character that I wanted to throttle the most was Peter Fallow, the British tabloid writer. As a former journalist, I tend to get pretty riled up when I see fictionalized journalist
Sapiens1 on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Great story. Tragic; but nothing written by Wolfe is too tragic. Ironic. Funny in a way...I guess that's the point. Politics + class warfare in the "big apple."
readingrat on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Wonderfully dry satire
strandbooks on LibraryThing 5 months ago
I'm surprised to read the other reviews about how this book is stuck in the 80s when it was written. Substitute the dark rosewood, green marble floors and shiny brass with travertine tile, granite countertops and silver in the McCoy apartment, and keep the entire plot and characters (without the shoulder pads and big hair) and it would be compleltly believable in 2010. Wolfe gave a glimpse into the life of Park Avenue that we now see on reality shows. They may seem like charactitures from an outsider's perspective, but as McCoy shows it all seems like reality when one is in the hive and constantly isolating oneself from the majority of society. Some things have changed, of course. For one, I've walked down the Grand Concourse in the Bronx so it has been cleaned up from the Gibraltar and wagon train scenes Wolf depicts. There are some great observances of the people/government of New York. I loved the way he showed how the "chow" (criminals in the bronx) fed the system and how these crack dealing kids in the projects kept thousands of government workers with a job. His description of the press/media and how they encite people to mob/demonstrate/riot is spot on (look at the recent town hall meetings this year to see that this is still a relevant topic). Overall, a good book that I'd recommend.
raggedprince on LibraryThing 8 months ago
A page turner, insightful, wise, funny - plot, characters and dialogue all skillfully done - a brilliant novel from a brilliant writer.
zmobie on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Highly compelling writing and an interesting look at some of the reigning societal practices of the time. Fascinating stream-of-consciousness writing really puts you inside the head of whoever is in play. Really pointed out many racial issues in post-modern New York in a non-clichéd manner.
NativeRoses on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Very amusing tale of the rise and fall of an investment banker told against a backdrop of many other new york stories -- cops, DAs, criminals, etc. Highly recommended.
latinteacher on LibraryThing 8 months ago
man...it took me forever to finally finish this book, but I am so glad I finally did. Wolfe hit the mark with his candor and wit, tackling issues of race from perspectives that are unexpected and intelligent.
miketroll on LibraryThing 8 months ago
An entertaining satire on racial politics in the 80s. The book's popularity suffered unduly from the backwash of criticism from a poor movie version.
boeflak on LibraryThing 8 months ago
First-rate mind candy. Life since reading it has presented a multitude of opportunities for revisiting Wolfe's metaphor of the "big swinging dicks." They appear in all walks of life, evidently - not just on Wall Street.
daizylee on LibraryThing 9 months ago
A big, fun novel of Crime and Punishment. A satirical look at the rich and the poor and what happens when they come together.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Contemporary literary classic that is a joy to read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Broke down and dove straight in to tangle a bit more with me nemesis . . . fiction. :/
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago