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A Man in Full [Abridged, Audiobook] [Audio CD]

Tom Wolfe , David Ogden Stiers
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (850 customer reviews)

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Product Description

From Amazon

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.

From Library Journal

Wolfe serves up all the greed, nastiness, and political correctness of the late 1990s in his latest novel about a good-ol'-boy zillionaire with a staggering load of debt and a trophy wife. Woven in with the Atlanta real estate developer's story are those of an idealistic young man in jail in California who discovers the Stoic philosophers and an African American football star accused of raping a white debutante. All of the threads come together in the end, with a plot twist that leaves the listener blinking in wonderment. Still, Wolfe is masterful at capturing the echoes of people and events in recent American experience with exuberance and wit. The scene in the race horse breeding barn is an absolute masterpiece. David Ogden Stiers does a wonderful job with the many voices in this immense story. His ability to capture regional speech and timing are flawless, and his portrayal of each character's emotional range is dead on. The production is terrific. For all libraries with popular fiction collections.?Barbara Valle, El Paso P.L., TX
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

"A masterpiece."
--The Wall Street Journal

"Superior...utterly engrossing."
--USA Today

"The novel contains passages as powerful and as beautiful as anything written--not merely by contemporary American novelists but by any American novelist....The book is as funny as anything Wolfe has ever written; at the same time it is also deeply, strangely affecting."
--The New York Times Book Review

"Wolfe is a peerless observer, a fearless satirist, a genius in full."
--People


From the Paperback edition.

From the Back Cover

"A masterpiece."
--The Wall Street Journal

"Superior...utterly engrossing."
--USA Today

"The novel contains passages as powerful and as beautiful as anything written--not merely by contemporary American novelists but by any American novelist....The book is as funny as anything Wolfe has ever written; at the same time it is also deeply, strangely affecting."
--The New York Times Book Review

"Wolfe is a peerless observer, a fearless satirist, a genius in full."
--People --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Tom Wolfe grew up in Richmond, Virginia, and graduated from Washington and Lee University. He received his doctorate in American Studies from Yale University. Mr. Wolfe worked as a reporter for the Springfield Union, The Washington Post, and the New York Herald Tribune. His writing has also appeared in New York magazine, Esquire, and Harper's
.
In 1965 he published The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby, and in 1968 The Pump House Gang and The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test were published simultaneously. Radical Chic and Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers was published in 1970.

In 1975 Wolfe published The Painted Word, an incandescent, hilarious look at the world of modern art; it caused as much controversy as anything Mr. Wolfe has written. Mauve Gloves and Madmen, Clutter and Vine, a collection of essays, was published in 1976.

The Right Stuff, a national bestseller published in 1979, won the American Book Award for general nonfiction. The American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters named Mr. Wolfe as recipient of the Harold D. Vursell Memorial Award for distinguished service in the field of journalism. From Bauhaus to Our House, his distinctive look at contemporary architecture, was published in the fall of 1981 and became another national bestseller; in 1982 he published The Purple Decades: A Reader. Mr. Wolfe's novel The Bonfire of the Vanities was published in 1987, and went on to become one of the top ten bestselling books of the decade.

Tom Wolfe lives in New York City.


From the Paperback edition.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Prologue
Cap'm Charlie


Charlie Croker, astride his favorite tennessee walking horse, pulled his shoulders back to make sure he was erect in the saddle and took a deep breath . . . Ahhhh, that was the ticket . . . He loved the way his mighty chest rose and fell beneath his khaki shirt and imagined that everyone in the hunting party noticed how powerfully built he was. Everybody; not just his seven guests but also his six black retainers and his young wife, who was on a horse behind him near the teams of La Mancha mules that pulled the buckboard and the kennel wagon. For good measure, he flexed and fanned out the biggest muscles of his back, the latissimi dorsi, in a Charlie Croker version of a peacock or a turkey preening. His wife, Serena, was only twenty-eight, whereas he had just turned sixty and was bald on top and had only a swath of curly gray hair on the sides and in back. He seldom passed up an opportunity to remind her of what a sturdy cord--no, what a veritable cable--kept him connected to the rude animal vitality of his youth.

By now they were already a good mile away from the Big House and deep into the plantation's seemingly endless fields of broom sedge. This late in February, this far south in Georgia, the sun was strong enough by 8 a.m. to make the ground mist lift like wisps of smoke and create a heavenly green glow in the pine forests and light up the sedge with a tawny gold. Charlie took another deep breath . . . Ahhhhhh . . . the husky aroma of the grass . . . the resinous air of the pines . . . the heavy, fleshy odor of all his animals, the horses, the mules, the dogs . . . Somehow nothing reminded him so instantly of how far he had come in his sixty years on this earth as the smell of the animals. Turpmtine Plantation! Twenty-nine thousand acres of prime southwest Georgia forest, fields, and swamp! And all of it, every square inch of it, every beast that moved on it, all fifty-nine horses, all twenty-two mules, all forty dogs, all thirty-six buildings that stood upon it, plus a mile-long asphalt landing strip, complete with jet-fuel pumps and a hangar--all of it was his, Cap'm Charlie Croker's, to do with as he chose, which was: to shoot quail.

His spirits thus buoyed, he turned to his shooting partner, a stout brick-faced man named Inman Armholster, who was abreast of him on another of his walking horses, and said:

"Inman, I'm gonna--"

But Inman, with a typical Inman Armholster bluster, cut him off and insisted on resuming a pretty boring disquisition concerning the upcoming mayoral race in Atlanta: "Listen, Charlie, I know Jordan's got charm and party manners and he talks white and all that, but that doesn't"--dud'n--"mean he's any friend of . . ."

Charlie continued to look at him, but he tuned out. Soon he was aware only of the deep, rumbling timbre of Inman's voice, which had been smoke-cured the classic Southern way, by decades of Camel cigarettes, unfiltered. He was an odd-looking duck, Inman was. He was in his mid-fifties but still had a head of thick black hair, which began low on his forehead and was slicked back over his small round skull. Everything about Inman was round. He seemed to be made of a series of balls piled one atop the other. His buttery cheeks and jowls seemed to rest, without benefit of a neck, upon the two balls of fat that comprised his chest, which in turn rested upon a great swollen paunch. Even his arms and legs, which looked much too short, appeared to be made of spherical parts. The down-filled vest he wore over his hunting khakis only made him look that much rounder. Nevertheless, this ruddy pudge was chairman of Armaxco Chemical and about as influential a businessman as existed in Atlanta. He was this weekend's prize pigeon, as Charlie thought of it, at Turpmtine. Charlie desperately wanted Armaxco to lease space in what so far was the worst mistake of his career as a real estate developer, a soaring monster he had megalomaniacally named Croker Concourse.

"--gon' say Fleet's too young, too brash, too quick to play the race card. Am I right?"

Suddenly Charlie realized Inman was asking him a question. But other than the fact that it concerned André Fleet, the black "activist," Charlie didn't have a clue what it was about.

So he went, "Ummmmmmmmmmmm."

Inman apparently took this to be a negative comment, because he said, "Now, don't give me any a that stuff from the smear campaign. I know there's people going around calling him an out-and-out crook. But I'm telling you, if Fleet's a crook, then he's my kinda crook."

Charlie was beginning to dislike this conversation, on every level. For a start, you didn't go out on a beautiful Saturday morning like this on the next to last weekend of the quail season and talk politics, especially not Atlanta politics. Charlie liked to think he went out shooting quail at Turpmtine just the way the most famous master of Turpmtine, a Confederate Civil War hero named Austin Roberdeau Wheat, had done it a hundred years ago; and a hundred years ago nobody on a quail hunt at Turpmtine would have been out in the sedge talking about an Atlanta whose candidates for mayor were both black. But then Charlie was honest with himself. There was more. There was . . . Fleet. Charlie had had his own dealings with André Fleet, and not all that long ago, either, and he didn't feel like being reminded of them now or, for that matter, later.

So this time it was Charlie who broke in:

"Inman, I'm gonna tell you something I may regret later on, but I'm gonna tell you anyway, ahead a time."

After a couple of puzzled blinks Inman said, "All right . . . go ahead."

"This morning," said Charlie, "I'm only gonna shoot the bobs." Morning came out close to moanin', just as something had come out sump'm. When he was here at Turpmtine, he liked to shed Atlanta, even in his voice. He liked to feel earthy, Down Home, elemental; which is to say, he was no longer merely a real estate developer, he was . . . a man.

"Only gon' shoot the bobs, hunh," said Inman. "With that?"

He gestured toward Charlie's .410-gauge shotgun, which was in a leather scabbard strapped to his saddle. The spread of bird shot a .410 fired was smaller than any other shotgun's, and with quail the only way you could tell a bob from a hen was by a patch of white on the throat of a bird that wasn't much more than eight inches long to start with.

"Yep," said Charlie, grinning, "and remember, I told you ahead a time."

"Yeah? I'll tell you what," said Inman. "I'll betcha you can't. I'll betcha a hundred dollars."

"What kinda odds you gon' give me?"

"Odds? You're the one who brought it up! You're the one staking out the bragging rights! You know, there's an old saying, Charlie: 'When the tailgate drops, the bullshit stops.'"

"All right," said Charlie, "a hundred dollars on the first covey, even Stephen." He leaned over and extended his hand, and the two of them shook on the bet.

Immediately he regretted it. Money on the line. A certain deep worry came bubbling up into his brain. PlannersBanc! Croker Concourse! Debt! A mountain of it! But real estate developers like him learned to live with debt, didn't they . . . It was a normal condition of your existence, wasn't it . . . You just naturally grew gills for breathing it, didn't you . . . So he took another deep breath to drive the spurt of panic back down again and flexed his big back muscles once more.

Charlie was proud of his entire physique, his massive neck, his broad shoulders, his prodigious forearms; but above all he was proud of his back. His employees here at Turpmtine called him Cap'm Charlie, after a Lake Seminole fishing-boat captain from a hundred years ago with the same name, Charlie Croker, a sort of Pecos Bill figure with curly blond hair who, according to local legend, had accomplished daring feats of strength. There was a song about him, which some of the old folks knew by heart. It went: "Charlie Croker was a man in full. He had a back like a Jersey bull. Didn't like okra, didn't like pears. He liked a gal that had no hairs. Charlie Croker! Charlie Croker! Charlie Croker!" Whether or not there had actually existed such a figure, Charlie had never been ableto find out. But he loved the idea, and he often said to himself what he was saying to himself at this moment: "Yes! I got a back like a Jersey bull!" In his day he had been a star on the Georgia Tech football team. Football had left him with a banged-up right knee, that had turned arthritic about three years ago. He didn't associate that with age, however. It was an honorable wound of war. One of the beauties of a Tennessee walking horse was that its gait spared you from having to post, to pump up and down at the knees when the horse trotted.

He wasn't sure he could take posting on this chilly February morning.

Up ahead, his hunting guide and dog trainer, Moseby, was riding yet another of his walking horses. Moseby signaled the dogs with a curious, low-pitched, drawn-out whistle he somehow produced from deep in his throat. Charlie could just make out one of his two prize pointers, King's Whipple and Duke's Knob, ranging through the golden sea of sedge, trying to get wind of quail coveys.

The two shooters, Charlie and Inman, rode on in silence for a while, listening to the creaking of the wagons and the clip-clopping of the mules and the snorts of the horses of the outriders and waiting for some signal from Moseby. One wagon was a rolling dog kennel containing cages for three more pairs of pointers to take turns in the ceaseless roaming of the sedge, plus a pair of golden retrievers that had been born in the same litter and were known as Ronald and Roland. A team of La Mancha mules, adorned in brass-knobbed yokes and studded harnessing, pulled the wagon, and two of Charlie's dog handle...

From AudioFile

The patrician David Ogden Stiers seems an odd choice to narrate the militantly rugged prose of Tom Wolfe. Yet he does a creditable job with this comic novel that has Atlanta's city fathers in high dudgeon. And, indeed, it does mock the respectable element and municipal culture of Scarlet O'Hara's home-town, which Wolfe would have us believe is full of foolishness, pomposity, hypocrisy and corruption. Oddly, Stiers, the consummate comedian of TV's "M*A*S*H," fails to imbue the narrative with much jollity. In fact, his descriptive and expository passages are dull. On the other hand, when he comes to dialogue and action, he jumps to life, reminding us of why we enjoyed him so much on the tube. Y.R. (c)AudioFile, Portland, Maine --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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