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on September 2, 2015
Tom Wolfe's ability to make me feel as if I was there and experiencing the lives of his characters contributed to my complete enjoyment of A Man In Full. Wolfe' story, pace and compelling characters keep the reader fully engaged. A must read.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon December 16, 2007
Charles (Charlie) Croker a middle-aged prominent Atlanta businessman finds his life turned up-side down when his ego brings him to a staggering debt load and to the brink of bankruptcy. Charlie is faced with laying off some workers at his food business to free up cash and buy some time. One victim is young Conrad Hensley who later becomes Charlie's therapist. His bankers smell blood, Raymond Peepgass has even secretly put together a syndicate to take over Crocker's office building at a cut rate.

Meanwhile Georgia star running back Fanon Fareek is accused of date raping the daughter of one of Charlie's society cronies, a pillar of the white establishment. Upscale black lawyer Roger White is asked to represent Fanon and doing so offers Charlie a deal that would get the bank off his back, it would mean speaking in favour of Fareek at a press conference.

With the press conference looming Charlie must decide whether to go along with White's plan by praising Fareek and save his empire or risk losing everything and possibly causing a riot in Atlanta.

The author narrates in this novel a myriad of details and social observations. Wolfe exposes pretension, hypocrisy, malice, greed and vices on top of the dynamism of contemporary life. This novel is a work of satire, utterly dark and brutal with moments of humour and complex emotions. I was immediately grabbed by the fabulous characters Wolfe introduced and the plot revolving around them, I could hardly put the book down.
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on June 29, 2004
Both insightful and almost tediously broad. Wolfe's much-hyped novel of 1998 feigns a Stoic pride in our post-Christian world, but doesn't seem to really put the pieces together in a cohesive narrative structure. The characters get jumbled around, the myriad plots cross artificially, but the prose is strangely catchy. Worthwhile if only to see where conservatism ends up without faith.
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on June 9, 2004
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.
Finally, Wolfe's foray into Stoic philosophy is beautifully and brilliantly done. When was the last time you read a novel where a philosophy book formed a major plot element? I think this book will continue to be read long after we've forgotten about Tom Clancy and Danielle Steele and most of the rest of the current crop of best-selling authors.
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on March 22, 2004
The book was interesting enough for me to finish it, but it is not one of his best. There are a number of very slow spots in the story and it lacks the spark of some of his other works.
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on March 5, 2004
I first read this book three years ago, then just re-read it again this week. I hadn't realized how many vignettes, put firmly into my head in that original reading, have stayed with me all this time. Conrad, humiliated by his wife's attitude toward him, suffers ever-more-increasing rage at the treatment of his car by a tow service; Croker's attempts to impress his guests by showing them a horse-breeding session; Roger White's first meeting with the insolent Fareek; the list goes on and on. The story is not particularly surprising or shocking, but the way Wolfe tells it is the attraction. His descriptions of social dynamics and the characters' emotions are pure genius. And where a lesser writer would have good triumphing over all, you never know who's going to win in a Wolfe novel.
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on February 16, 2004
This was a very good read, with colorful characters, and good character development for the most part. But the ending of the book was rushed. It was conventional and pat . . . the last few chapters went by so fast, I had to re-read part of it to see if I wasn't missing something, and I wasn't. The end of the book made what came before almost trite and meaningless.
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on January 4, 2004
What I loved most about this book was Wolfe's characterization of Charlie Croker, a man I meet over and over again in real life. He is a true southerner, rich and powerful and ignorant of the more "delicate" issues of life, like the feelings of those who work for him. He thinks of himself as democratic, but instead he is patronizing. That Charlie gets his comeuppance is a strong point in the book. Unfortunately, in Wolfe's books there isn't anyone to really LIKE, and therefore, that doesn't put it at the top of the literary heap - in my opinion. I like to be able to identify with at least one of the characters, and this book isn't like that. Still it's a very good, interesting and easy read.
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on December 31, 2003
I strongly recommend this book. In addition to providing that Wolfeian insight to modern culture & characters it's funny, warm, amusing, moving. Herman Wouk would have loved this book.
I suspect this book will be rediscovered by many people who found it a little too much or much too little on the first attempt. It's a classic snapshot of end of the century US culture to me, interpreted by a fine storyteller.
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on December 12, 2003
Tom Wolfe, as is his trademark style, emanates forth in A Man in Full his caustic wit, biting satire, amazingly diverse characters, superior dialogue, and a highly engrossing writing style. Due to this undeniably rare combination in modern fiction, Wolfe elevates himself above the 2 books/year modern authors who churn out books like a factory and value spineless & flavorless style over certifiable substance. Wolfe, in A Man in Full, gives us a work not lacking in either comprehensiveness or profundity. This, like Bonfire, is a great American novel.
Wolfe's refreshing penchant for amazingly lucid and superlatively amusing dialogue makes this book hard to put down. Wolfe ingeniously satirizes the unwritten, although readily apparent, class structure of the South through such bizarrely eclectic characters as Charlie Croker(good ol' boy establishment), his ex-wife Martha(shallow elitist), Fareek "The Canon" Fanon(flatulent inner-city star athlete), Croker's wife Serena(trophy wife), Roger "too" White II(the Morehouse Man in an identity crisis), Conrad Hensley(blue collar drone turned philosopher), and my favorite character, the entertainingly enigmatic Raymond Peepgass(the East Coast crowd moved South).
A Man in Full comes highly recommended to those who value witty, substantive works over vapidly trite novels of fluff.
It's only fitting to conclude with an excerpt of typical Wolfe dialogue from the jail scene:
"But how do you get to be a...player?" Conrad asked Five-O. "What can you do?"
"No do no mo'notting, brah. Use da mouth. NO make beef wit' da buggahs. Use da mouth."
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