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The Bonfire of the Vanities (Picador Books) Paperback – 1 Aug 1990

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Paperback, 1 Aug 1990
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Product details

  • Paperback: 752 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; New edition edition (1 Aug 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330305735
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330305730
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 4.3 x 13 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 494,008 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Tom Wolfe was born in 1931. He has written for The Washington Post and The New York Herald Tribune and is credited with the creation of 'New Journalism'. Between 1984 and 1985 Wolfe wrote his first novel The Bonfire of the Vanities in serial form for Rolling Stone magazine. The novel was published in 1987. It was number one of the New York Times bestseller list for two months and remained on the list for more than a year. He is the author of sixteen books, among them such contemporary classics as The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, and I Am Charlotte Simmons. He lives in New York City.

Product Description


"If there is a set-book of the Eighties, it is Tom Wolfe's Bonfire of the Vanities. No other novel has achieved such a precise place in the imagination of the reading classes. With his first attempt at fiction Wolfe has become the 'Dickens or Balzac of his age'; the dandy journalist has become the towering genius" (The Times)

"Wolfe's modern morality tale displays the sardonic humour and sharp appreciation of the grotesque familiar to admirers of his non fiction... Savagely funny and compelling" (Guardian)

"The air of New York crackles with an energy that causes the adrenalin to pump, until one has the illusion that this is where the whole of life is taking place. The feeling is perfectly reproduced in Wolfe's novel, which opens such cans of worms as racial hostility, dress codes, political labelling and the cynical opportunism that governs every action. It's, well, electric" (Sunday Times)

"It's witty, sprawling and ambitious" (Daily Telegraph)

"Impossible to put down" (Wall Street Journal) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

As influential as Martin Amis's MONEY and Oliver Stone's film WALL STREET, this is an exhilarating satire of Eighties excess and a book that captures the roiling spirit of New York --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Budge Burgess on 12 Aug 2005
Format: Paperback
Chic New York, a city built on aspiration and embodying a cultural elite who have had to create their elitism in the face of Mammon and cultural diversity. Another New York, an existence built on aspiration and hopes of survival, a daily life embodying a struggle to maintain cultural autonomy, group identity, some form of respect, a New York teeming with diversity and the struggle to get by in the teeth of hatred, racism, poverty, greed, drugs, violence, and the overwhelming desire of the cultural and political elite to sweep the streets clear of the detritus of city life.
New York in the 1980's, like English society in the 19th century, its cultural and economic elite struggling to set themselves apart, to emphasise that they possess 'real' class, that they are not contaminated by overnight riches. New York where the rich compete to be admired, to be seen, to be respected for their style and savoir faire, a city where a designer apartment is de rigueur.
This is a New York in which Kramer, one of Wolfe's characters, can embrace relief when he discovers that he no longer feels inferior to their English nanny. Insecurity is at the root of elitism, whether it is the struggle to remain in the top echelons of society or to survive in the gutter. Adultery can be carried on with discretion, so can drug use. The rich strive to insulate themselves from contact with the lower classes, the detritus strive to insulate themselves from the law and their own deadly rivals.
Tom Wolfe produces a New York of hermetically sealed compartments, exclusive social groupings struggling to preserve themselves from the risk of contamination by others. It's a cultured world, fuelled by the dynamism of Wall Street, yet so different from the barrow-boy culture of Thatcher's London.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Scholastica on 14 Jun 2012
Format: Paperback
Coming to this book some 25 years after it was published, I feel certain that I wouldn't have enjoyed it 25 years ago. Maybe this is because I'm English, I live in Scotland and I'm an earth-mother type of woman - and this book is extremely male-centric and is about image and greed amongst the wealthy upper echelons of New York, so there's not a lot of common ground or shared experience.

However, I've read it now and although I found it hard going at times (the writing style, the shallow male perspective, the only women in the book are very peripheral and are either wives or seductresses) I am actually glad that I decided to read it. It covers a timeless topic - that of selling your soul for short term gratification - and this topic is graphically painted across a city backdrop where everyone is selling their soul at some level or another. I quite enjoyed immersing myself in this world for a few days. It felt very real.

Would I recommend it? I think it's worth the read for a number of reasons - for the exploration of what it means to be a political football, to witness the creation of a media circus, to be given a picture of the cultural melting pot of New York in the '80s. All of this was illuminating for me and made the read worthwhile - so if you aren't sure about the story itself, read it for these reasons and see what you get out of it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Talc Demon on 23 Nov 2007
Format: Paperback
This is apparently Tom Wolfe's first foray into writing a novel. I am a big fan of his journalistic writings and on that basis, Wolfe uses a similar cutting and witty style to satirise New York politics through the story-line. Interestingly, in the introduction, Wolfe states that he set out to write a book about New York, which explains why this story encapsulates so much of the colourful society within this city. More importantly, the story revolves around the politics and tensions between these facets of race and class, resulting in a combustible plot.

Throughout the novel, the inimitable Wolfe style made me laugh out loud as it has done previously, however because it's fiction, Wolfe has free rein using plotline to comment on the ridiculousness of certain aspects of New York society .

Beyond the cleverness and humour of the story, Wolfe takes the social issues and makes you think twice about what is really going on. How can Sherman McCoy, the arrogant reptilian protagonist be the subject of your pity? How can liberality be the gaoler of truth? This ambiguity is what makes this a thought-provoking and memorable book.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Trevor Coote on 25 May 2009
Format: Paperback
The decade (and the city) that gave us Wall Street and Gordon Gecko, and American Psycho and Patrick Bateman, also gave us The Bonfire of the Vanities and Sherman McCoy. However, Tom Wolfe's best seller is more than just another lacerating satire on the frenzied money-making culture of the 1980s; it is a visceral attack on human greed, hypocrisy, double standards, political expediency and blind ambition.
Sherman McCoy, son of a respected Wall Street lawyer, top bond salesman and self-acclaimed `Master of the Universe' lives the high life with his interior designer wife and beloved daughter in a multi-million dollar Park Avenue apartment. He also has a mistress, femme fatale Maria Ruskin, married to a millionaire three times her age. One night, after picking her up from the airport, he misses the route and finds himself hurtling out of Manhattan and into the `jungle' of South Bronx, a community at that time imploding through drugs and violence. In a nebulous incident where they believe they are about to be attacked by two black boys after they had stopped, Maria takes control of the car and somehow manages to knock down one of the boys. More concerned about being discovered than about what had happened to the victim McCoy believes that he has got away with his misdemeanour when matters take an unexpected downturn. It turns out that the boy has not only been knocked down but is in an irrecoverable coma. There is a witness who has seen a white man and a white woman in a luxury Mercedes and has caught the first part of the number plate before it sped away from the accident. The community is then up in arms when it is discovered that the hospital had sent the boy, Henry lamb, home with an `injured wrist', and even more so when members of the legal profession state that `there is no case'.
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