2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Satire That Nails The 80's Down Flat!!!
I cannot believe that it has actually been over a decade since I read Tom Wolfe's THE BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES; it is a brilliant and hilarious entertaining work of satirical fiction, and a dead-on accurate social commentary of everything that made up the 1980's, commonly (and accurately) known as The Greed Decade. This includes the incendiary racial conflagrations that...
Published on Jun 17 2004 by Robert J. Schneider
3.0 out of 5 stars The Bonfire of Wolfe's Imagination
Yes, the plot drives itself.
Yes, the chracterizations are often vivid, entertaining, and thought-provoking.
Yes, the style and is agreeable and never too inconsistent with any given character at hand.
Yes, Wolfe shows and conveys his knowldge of the socio-economic stratums of America in book form. His insights into the relations between these groups and within...
Published on Jun 12 2004 by Philip
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5.0 out of 5 stars Still relevant in 2003,
This review is from: The Bonfire of the Vanities (Paperback)Bonfire of the Vanities is one of the great page turners of the last half of the 20th century. Wolfe combines comedy with scathing social commentary, as a blue blooded Wall Streeter takes the wrong exit off the highway and two cultures collide with tragi-comic results. It was impossible to put this book down, even though it is quite lengthy. The beleaguered Bronx judge, the girlfriend, the Harlem reverend who thrives on playing the race card for his own greater glory and the slimy reporter are just some of the characters who ring true.
For those who saw the movie, don't let that turn you off. The whole premise was changed and it was a typical Hollywood bastardization. Wolfe tried a similar sweep of the cultural landscape in "A Man In Full" but lost his way halfway through that book. There are no wrong notes in Bonfire; it's a snapshot of New York politcally and culturally in the late 80's, and it's amazing how little has changed in today's world.
4.0 out of 5 stars This Book is on Fire,
This review is from: The Bonfire of the Vanities (Paperback)This was my second Tom Wolfe book and I enjoyed it even more than the first, being "A Man In Full" It amazes me how Wolfe can introduce so many characters from so many places and then some how tie them all together. This book may anger certain readers with the frequent stereotypes used by Wolfe to show New York prejudice but they are essential in understanding New York city. I personally enjoyed the theme of how many whites were afraid of blacks and were scared to travel to what seems like another city in Harlem. Wolfe also addresses the situation within the poverty stricken ghettos of New York. This book paints an accurate picture of New York sex and class and the divisions within them.
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read,
This review is from: The Bonfire of the Vanities (Paperback)This book is one of the most enjoyable books that I've read. With great characters and descriptions, it is definetely a masterpiece.
The characters in the novel are downright brilliant. Each has his or her flaws, and Wolfe shows those, but not with too much severity, instead showing that we are all equal in our flaws.
The description in this book, though sometimes too much, too long, and repetitive, is generally very good and paints a beatiful picture of the scene in your mind.
The plot is very involved, but not so much that it confuses you, and more than enough to keep you interested. The ending is very surprising and very riveting, and is a perfect ending to a already great book.
Highly recommended to all.
5.0 out of 5 stars A magnificent masterpiece!,
This review is from: The Bonfire of the Vanities (Paperback)Iam more than happy that I finally read the book, although I knew about it for a long time. during my free-time I read a lot and this book was a terrific read, one of the best books I ever picked up.
it is about the fall of sherman mccoy, a wall street 'wunderkind'. one night, he and his 'foxy love' take the wrong exit of the freeway and find themselves 'trapped' in the bronx. by accident, they hit a joung black male. the hit-and-run causes them unthinkable trouble and from now on, everything goes straight downhill. simultaneously, many other people take advantage of their doom. foremost, the journalist p. fallow and rev. bacon. the book is full of interesting, funny, but also bad characters (especially mccoy itself who is indescribably arrogant, the english journalist as well as the slimy, sycophant kramer and the 'influencial' rev. bacon to name but a few) and wolfe provides an excellent description of ny in the late 80's. however, due to the fact that iam german I do not know whether everything is true or a slightly exaggerated description. but I perosnally think it doesn't matter at all because the message is clear: in an achievement-oriented society everyone is only interested in her/his own benefits and 'walks over dead bodies' to reach more and more. of course, it is stereotyping but I safely assume that this is true and undenieable at least to a certain degree.
the bonfire of the vanities is a bitter-sweet, satiric, funny, dramatic, and enthralling novel everyone ought to read. maybe one of the finest american novels of recent times. what I liked most is the fact that there are no 'real heroes' and almost every character shows its dreadful, abhorrent side. of course, the book has its lenght but its worthwile to proceed because the pace is always high and so many amazing things occur although one might correctly guess what is supposed to happen next.
moreover, wolf's writing is great, in particular the different linguistic details in terms of dialects, abusive language etc. are absolutely fabulous. with a clear conscience, I highly recommend this book...
5.0 out of 5 stars A Snapshot of a time and a place,
This review is from: The Bonfire of the Vanities (Paperback)In retrospect, there is no better snapshot of New York City during the 1980's than THE BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES. This novel completely captures the energy, and even the euphoria, which crept into city life during a decade that now seems far removed.
BONFIRE is an engrossing novel, interweaving all of the many aspects of city life, from the self-indulgences of the newly (very) rich to the struggles of the ghetto poor. Much like that proverbial first potato chip, once a reader gets a taste of this book, it is hard to stop reading until the final resolution. Wolfe writes a detailed and informative story in his typical lively style.
Anyone who wants to remember New York City during the overheated 80's will find THE BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES to be a clear snapshot of that time and that place.
4.0 out of 5 stars Up in Flames,
This review is from: The Bonfire of the Vanities (Paperback)Tom Wolfe is a great writer. He uses language beautifully, develops characters extremely well, and creates good drama. I would, however, say that he is a better essayist than novelist and I would recommend The Right Stuff or The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test over this book because they are more focussed and he keeps his story together better in them. With that said though, I would highly recommend Bonfire of the Vanities. Wolfe describes the socialites, lowlifes, politicians, reporters, and other various characters who populate the New York scene and all of their particular vanities in great detail. They are believable, whether they are likable or not is really besides the point, and they come to life with their authentic dialogue and charater flaws. It is a satirical book written by a very observant author, so even those who have not been exposed to this culture is able to become caught up in it and find themselves fascinated by the whole scene. I would recommend this book to anyone who like social critiques, interesting characters, good writing, and a fast paced story.
4.0 out of 5 stars Park Avenue and the Bronx, a love story.,
This review is from: The Bonfire of the Vanities (Paperback)Pivotal in the characterization of this book is the accuracy in which every thought, action and even accent is described. The author leaves absolutely no margin for your imagination to alter the experience of the story. This is why you are living the satirical story of Mr. Wolfe portraying New York by its essentials: power, racial issues and money. That's all there is to it.
Sherman McCoy, whom you are given ample opportunity to hate, but really cannot hate completely, finds out that life is extremely fragile when you have everything everybody else wants. One misstep, or in his case one wrong turn in his pricey Mercedes, shows him literally and figuratively a more colorful New York than he has ever seen. Being terrified even on the 'safest' streets of New York, the Bronx appears before him like the nightmare he never had, accompanied by his mistress with the southern accent, Maria. Trying desperately to return to safe Manhattan, he is involved in a hit-and-run which is the start of a series of events that change his entire world. The mighty must fall, as seen from the Bronx. Justice must be done, seen from the assistant DA (who in fact has other motives). Headlines must scream, as seen from the press. All want a piece of McCoy, all want power, all want money.
Everybody who reads this book cannot deny finding many truths in it, about America, about wealth and about life all intertwined in an exiting story. Herein we find the strength of storytelling of Tom Wolfe. Read this book.
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential Reading,
This review is from: The Bonfire of the Vanities (Paperback)'Bonfire of the Vanities' is a quintessential novel of the contemporary era not only for its literary craft, but also for its insight into the modern-day social system. Wolf accurately depicts this system on all fronts. The social interaction between economic classes, the growing problems (maybe even failure) of politics and justice as vehicles of freedom and democracy, and the powerful control of consumerism over us all are themes of the book underlying a story masterfully written from a number of the characters' perspectives. You start to feel the strengths and weaknesses of each character, realizing how human nature and illusions of grandeur make us all into people we never thought we'd become.
Being a big Easton Ellis fan, I thought the descriptive writing in this book was far from excessive and only illustrated some of its themes of materialism. It's also probably one of the fastest (substantive) 700 pages I've ever read. Don't count on the film for anything but a good laugh.
Regardless, you will be more enlightened after readiing this book.
5.0 out of 5 stars The Great American Novel,
This review is from: The Bonfire of the Vanities (Paperback)Tom Wolfe was once asked if the novel is dead. He replied that it's not quite dead, but it's on life support. He thinks the biggest problem with modern novels is that the novelists don't bother to do adequate research on their subject. How can one write a novel about India, for example, if one has never been to India? In Bonfire of the Vanities, Wolfe has done the research and has created an exact representation of modern city life in America, complete with politically self-serving DAs, civil rights demagogues, and pompous gold-coast dandies.
Wolfe is obviously a keen observer of detail. This skill combined with his mastery of the reportorial style of writing make for a great novel, and a great expose' of the hustlers and opportunists that use the system for their own self-interest. I think of him as a modern-day Sinclair Lewis, who once said that he never passed judgement one way or another, he just reported what he observed. Since most of us have probably never been in a high-rise apartment on Park Avenue or a housing project in the Bronx, it's interesting to read Wolfe's detailed descriptions down to the type of wallpaper and table centerpieces. All of this works to pull the reader into the scene, the only excess possibly being his proclivity for over-reporting clothing styles. Wolfe shows his love of clothing by using esoteric terms that probably have no meaning to the average reader.
Wolfe's scenes are so realistic the reader can imagine himself being in the action. I felt Sherman's fear in the Bronx jail cell. I felt his shame when lying to his wife about his relationship with Maria. The characters and dialog are so real, even though the reader may not live in that social milieu he can identify with the situation. The action moves at a rapid pace. Wolfe doesn't get bogged down with excessive narrative. He lets the characters speak for themselves--truly the mark of a great novelist.
I love the way Wolfe has the Brits comment on Americans. It's refreshing to see ourselves from another perspective. How funny it is to hear Peter Fallow complain about our "ridiculous country" and our lack of social graces, all the while sponging off of rich Americans at every opportunity.
This book is timeless. I read it for the second time recently and found it as enjoyable as the first. At the end I felt myself wishing for several more chapters. Bonfire of the Vanities should always stand as one of the best examples of American literature by one of our greatest writers.
4.0 out of 5 stars The more things change, the more they stay the same. . .,
This review is from: The Bonfire of the Vanities (Paperback)This book, written in the 1980s about New York of the early- to mid-1980s, while not fresh, is certainly not irrelevant. Most of the character types are clearly recognizable as extant forces in the city and the nation.
The plot of the book is nothing remarkable per se. It takes a while to materialize and is mildly interesting, but nothing about it is especially clever. A bad, dumb, white guy -- rich and insensitive of course -- is screwing around on his wife with a golddigger. Through circumstances beyond his control he is involved in a seemingly minor incident that balloons up and takes over his life, making it, and him, into something very different, (and, we presume, better) than it, and he, was before. Along the way, some good guys pop up, some bad guys pop up, and some guys you thought were good but turn out to be bad pop up.
Wolfe does a good job in getting into his characters' minds and letting us in on what they're thinking and feeling along the way. Wolfe's writing gets in the way of the story, however. He is overly descriptive of the surroundings to the point that one soon tires it -- at least I did. It came to the point that I skipped over entire paragraphs devoted to descriptions of furniture and wall hangings.
Some of the more memorable parts of the book involve the parties the rich white guy and his wife attend, with hilarious, almost Vonnegut-like descriptions of the attendees' laughs. Wolfe also does his readers a service for a look inside the fourth estate. To those of us who think the news media have a particular axe to grind it is enlightening to see them cast as mere grubbers, each after his or her own moment of fame. (A phrase from another book -- The Martian Race by Gregory Benford -- comes to mind -- "the snout of the media pig had worked its way under the tent...")
It is amusing to think that many of the events so central to the plot are now meaningless due to technology - cell and satellite phones, the Internet and cable news, and the widespread availability of credit cards, to name a few. All in all though, this is not a bad book. It is overly long and tedious in spots, but it's worth reading if for no other reason than it provides a look back into the marvelous '80s, and a reminder that human nature never changes.
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The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe (Paperback - Nov 1 1988)
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