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A Man in Full Paperback – Oct 30 2001


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 704 pages
  • Publisher: Dial Press Trade Paperback; Reprint edition (Oct. 30 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553381334
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553381337
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 3 x 20.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 544 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (850 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #31,923 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

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Ever since he published his classic 1972 essay "Why They Aren't Writing the Great American Novel Anymore," Tom Wolfe has made his fictional preferences loud and clear. For New Journalism's poster boy, minimalism is a wash, not to mention a failure of nerve. The real mission of the American writer is to produce fat novels of social observation--the sort of thing Balzac would be dishing up if he had made it into the Viagra era. Wolfe's manifesto would have had a hubristic ring if he hadn't actually delivered the goods in 1987 with The Bonfire of the Vanities. Now, more than a decade later, he's back with a second novel. Has the Man in White lived up to his own mission?

On many counts, the answer would have to be yes. Like its predecessor, A Man in Full is a big-canvas work, in which a multitude of characters seems to be ascending or (rapidly) descending the greasy pole of social life: "In an era like this one," a character reminds us, "the twentieth century's fin de siècle, position was everything, and it was the hardest thing to get." Wolfe has changed terrain on us, to be sure. Instead of New York, the focus here is Atlanta, Georgia, where the struggle for turf and power is at least slightly patinated with Deep South gentility. The plot revolves around Charlie Croker, an egomaniacal good ol' boy with a crumbling real-estate empire on his hands. But Wolfe is no less attentive to a pair of supporting players: a downwardly mobile family man, Conrad Hensley, and Roger White II, an African American attorney at a white-shoe firm. What ultimately causes these subplots to converge--and threatens to ignite a racial firestorm in Atlanta--is the alleged rape of a society deb by Georgia Tech football star Fareek "The Cannon" Fanon.

Of course, a detailed plot summary would be about as long as your average minimalist novel. Suffice it to say that A Man in Full is packed with the sort of splendid set pieces we've come to expect from Wolfe. A quail hunt on Charlie's 29,000-acre plantation, a stuffed-shirt evening at the symphony, a politically loaded press conference--the author assembles these scenes with contagious delight. The book is also very, very funny. The law firms, like upper-crust powerhouse Fogg Nackers Rendering & Lean, are straight out of Dickens, and Wolfe brings even his minor characters, like professional hick Opey McCorkle, to vivid life:

In true Opey McCorkle fashion he had turned up for dinner wearing a plaid shirt, a plaid necktie, red felt suspenders, and a big old leather belt that went around his potbelly like something could hitch up a mule with, but for now he had cut off his usual torrent of orotund rhetoric mixed with Baker Countyisms.
Readers in search of a kinder, gentler Wolfe may well be disappointed. Retaining the satirist's (necessary) superiority to his subject, he tends to lose his edge precisely when he's trying to move us. Still, when it comes to maximalist portraiture of the American scene--and to sheer, sentence-by-sentence amusement--1998 looks to be the year of the Wolfe, indeed. --James Marcus --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

However the National Book Award judges managed to get hold of Wolfe's much-delayed second novel in time to give it their nod as an NBA finalist, they were quite right to do so. It's a dazzling performance, offering a panoramic vision of America at the end of the 20th century that ranges with deceptive ease over our economic, political and racial hang-ups and at the same time maintains a brisk narrative pace that makes the huge book seem only a quarter of its real length. Balzac had the same gift. The "man in full" of the title (the phrase comes from an old song) is Charlie Croker, a good-ole-boy real-estate developer in Atlanta whose sprawling South Georgia plantation, massive mansion in the best part of town, half-empty skyscraper tower named after himself, horde of servants, fleet of jets and free-spending trophy second wife have left him terribly vulnerable to bankers deciding the party's over. As a former football star, however, the suggestion is put to him that there is something he can do to ease his situation. A black Georgia Tech player clearly headed for greatness may have raped the daughter of one of Charlie's old business buddies. If Charlie can help the city's ambitious black mayor maintain calm, the bank just might be persuaded to ease up on him. Three thousand miles away in California, Conrad Hensley, an idealistic young worker at a warehouse run by one of Charlie's subsidiary companies, fired in an offhand downsizing designed to placate the bank, runs afoul of the law in a farcical parking hassle and is thrown in jail. There, in fear of his life, Conrad absorbs Stoic philosophy from a book his wife has sent him, and, aided by a timely earthquake (sent by Zeus?), begins to turn his life around until the day, in exile in Atlanta, he encounters Charlie. These parallel plot lines, examining with microscopic precision the obsessions, preoccupations, habits and lingo of life at the top and bottom of American society, are both compelling in themselves and resonant with a sense of the vast mystery and comedy of contemporary life in this amazing country. Wolfe is as adept at scenes painted with high satirical glee (Charlie on a quail hunt, or introducing shrinking business guests to an all-out stud performance by a prize racehorse) as he is with horror and pity (his picture of life for Conrad in his California jail is almost unbearably intense). Despite the very occasional longeurs (readers learns more Atlanta geography than they may care to) and writerly tics (Wolfe still can't resist onomatopoetic outbursts), the novel is a major advance on The Bonfire of the Vanities in its range, power and compassion, while retaining all of that book's breathless contemporaneity and readability. 1.2 million firt printing; simultanneous audio from BDD.(Nov 6).
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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First Sentence
FOR A WHILE THE FREAKNIC TRAFFIC INCHED UP PIEDMONT...inched up Piedmont...inched up Piedmont...inched up as far as Tenth Street...and then inched up the slope beyond Tenth Street...inched up as far as Fifteenth Street... whereupon it came to a complete, utter, hopeless, bogged-down glue-trap halt, both ways, northbound, southbound, going and coming, across all four lanes. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By elwin on June 9 2004
Format: Paperback
You might, as you start reading Man in Full, think that it's going to be another bonfire of similar vanities. You might, but you would be wrong. I loved Bonfire of the Vanities, but this book has more heart; it's even better.
The book is mostly set in Atlanta, and Wolfe makes the case that Atlanta has a unique racial situation. Race relations and racial tensions form a major theme in the novel. Wolfe views race from many angles, including views from Atlanta's black elite, wealthy conservative and liberal southern white, and the inside of a California prison.
The characters and characterizations are marvelous. This was one of the strengths of Bonfires and it's a strength of this book too. I don't think Wolfe writes women as well as he writes men, but the men of several different walks of life are as fully fleshed as anything I've ever read. Another fascinating thing about the book is the inside knowledge Wolfe shares. The insider's view of an Atlanta mayoral campaign was truly eye-opening, as was the inside view of a prison.
The book is hard to classify, but the view is often satirical (like Bonfire), and makes fun of the pride, vanity, lusts, and fears of the elites (like Bonfire). However, there is more heart. Some of the heart shows up in Wolfe's compassion for divorced 50-something wives who have been discarded by their social climbing husbands. In Bonfire, the wives, called "X-rays" were subject to the same ridicule as their husbands; not so in this book. Wolfe also shows some compassion for the poor souls in prison, as he illuminates the brutal social structure in his california jail. It's never mawkish; it never plays for sympathy or tears, but the simple facts of prison life are a horror.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Orrin C. Judd on Nov. 25 2000
Format: Hardcover
I'm sure that by now everyone is aware of the basic story of A Man in Full, Tom Wolfe's eleven-years-in-the-making, heart-surgery and-depression-interrupted, follow up to his great novel of the 80's, Bonfire of the Vanities. Charlie Croker is a 60 year old, good old boy, developer in Atlanta. A former star Georgia Tech halfback, his empire includes a game ranch, a frozen foods business and a white elephant of an office building that is bleeding him dry. Judging his success purely by the accouterments, he appears to be doing okay, with a hottie trophy wife, a Gulf Stream 5, palatial houses, etc. But his bankers smell blood in the water, one of them (Raymond Peepgass) has even secretly put together a syndicate to take over the office building at cut rate, and Charlie has to lay off some workers at the food business, including young Conrad Hensley, just to free up cash and buy some time. Meanwhile, Georgia Tech's new star halfback, Fareek Fanon, is being accused of raping the daughter of one of Charlie's wealthy society cronies. Up and coming black attorney Roger White II (Roger Too White) has been called in to handle the defense and he offers Charlie a deal: speak out in support of Fareek at a press conference orchestrated by the mayor, and they'll get the bank to back off. As Charlie wrestles with this decision, Conrad works his way across the country, converting to Stoicism in the process. Their paths all meet when Conrad is assigned to Charlie as a physical therapist after knee surgery and shares the tenets of Stoicism with him.Read more ›
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Manuel Gwiazda on May 26 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This book is about life, and it is not the story (which is very gripping indeed) but the deep development of characters what it counts. Throughout a very detailed physical, satirical and, psychological observation of the ambitions and careers of members of the different social rungs of the Atlanta and America social ladder, Wolfe weaves a story which never falters from beginning to end and maintains the same level of writing style and quality in every chapter. All the characters, stereotyped ones, move interrelated because the actions of some of them bring big misfortunes to the life of others, All share problems in common, that is, making a living, maintaining an image and keeping their high living standards and everyone of them seem to say". Look, I have a situation here..."and are shown enduring their existence in relation to the events that come to their lives. The magic lies in the way the reader is introduced to the life of the character, because one reads and wish to make judgments about everything unexpected that happens, kind of (What I would do in this case ? What if..?) All characters receive equal treatment under the pen of the author, the top tycoon, the frustrated professional and the humblest worker. Pain and disappointment are part of life for all of them and no matter the money and prestige they have or don't have, they must confront and solve complex problems entailing difficult decisions sometimes under big pressure as tough they were hanging on the edge of a cliff. I would have changed the title of this book for another one ".Life in full.......".because some passages provide useful examples and others remarkable observations applying to everyday life ranging from the most important circumstances to the less significant ones. Highly recommendable for a gift to oneself and a dear friend
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