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The Bonfire of the Vanities (Picador Books) [Paperback]

Tom Wolfe
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)

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Book Description

24 Feb 1989 Picador Books
One night in the Bronx a millionaire, Sherman McCoy, and his mistress have an accident. The next day a young black is in hospital in a coma as McCoy heads for disaster. His humiliation is at the centre of a satire on the decaying class, racial and political structure of New York in the 1980s.


Product details

  • Paperback: 736 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; New edition edition (24 Feb 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 033030660X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330306607
  • Product Dimensions: 17.4 x 12 x 4.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 993,612 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

Review

"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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
37 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars New York, from gutter to social ceiling 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
4.0 out of 5 stars Recommended 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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Race or class? 26 May 2008
Format:Paperback
This is a brilliant book of 80s excess and aspiration mixed with attitudes towards race. Just because a person is rich should they be guilty of racism and just because a person is poor should they be a victim of this. However, this is not the story just the legal case! A great story with real meaning even today twenty years later. A future classic as this social situation aint going anywhere!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dazzling 10 Jan 2012
By M. Hind
Format:Paperback
When a novel captures the essence of the times in which it's set, that's the recipe for a truly immersive experience. The greed, posturing and shallow absurdity of the 80s (as I and many others seem to recall them) is so skilfully reflected I can't think of any better example in fiction. Think 'American Psycho', sans sexual violence and those lengthy discourses on the 'work' of Huey Lewis & the News - but plenty else to laugh at. The set pieces are sometimes breathtaking (my favourite being the 'Death, New York Style' chapter). In the end, though - for me - it's the sheer pace of the horribly unwinding tale that makes this one of the most exciting reads I could name. Picking up this book, it's like you and Sherman McCoy are jumping out of an aircraft. The only way is down. Fast. And the only question is how hard you're going to land.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional 30 Nov 2011
By Robin
Format:Paperback
Many of the reviews here go into great detail as to why this is a good book, the plot, the twists, the characters, the tone, the vocabulary of the times... I could do that, but instead I simply recommend that you buy and read this excellent book and throughly enjoy it. Feel free to read further reviews afterwards if you need to know why you enjoyed it so.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wolfe in Fiction Mode 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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant story
Tackles multiple questions around the excesses of the city, the rich-poor divide, policing, the court justice system, rights to privacy, journalism etc but in a highly entertaining... Read more
Published 1 month ago by BoatLady
4.0 out of 5 stars Exquisitely-portraited characters in a city of decadence and greed
Epic New York crime saga set around Wall Street, a Bronx courthouse and Upper and Lower Manhattan’s contrasting wealth districts. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Patrick CT
5.0 out of 5 stars Needle-sharp satire
This must be one of the funniest yet most savagely satirical books I've ever read. The picture of New York society is, I suppose, limited - it deals with the rich and successful,... Read more
Published 4 months ago by John_the_Commonweal
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my all time best books ever !!
I just LOVE LOVE LOVE this book it seems ageless, as relevant today as it was 20years ago and that takes some doing by an author. Read more
Published 6 months ago by WillerbyMum
4.0 out of 5 stars A classic view of the avarice and excess of the 80s
This is a greta book for anyone who remembers the growth of avarice and excess of the 1980s. The explosion of the financial sector, the litiginious society, the excessive... Read more
Published 10 months ago by sparky72
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding book quite remarkable.
Most books pale to insignificance compared to this. It was published in installments in Rolling Stone magazine by Tom Wolfe. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Jack Walker
5.0 out of 5 stars A story told by a master storyteller
Great story beautifully told by Tom Wolfe. He paints pictures in words leaving the reader feeling that he was there. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Mr. Samuel A. Leigh
5.0 out of 5 stars The Bonfire of the Vanities
This novel suffers from the same malady as many of Evelyn Waugh's: it's brilliant title isn't very appropriate for the brilliant content. But oh well. Read more
Published 18 months ago by RachelWalker
5.0 out of 5 stars Master of the Republic of Letters
One of the great novels of the 20th century. The High Priest of the New Journalism brings all his powers to bear with inimitable style and verve. Read more
Published on 1 Dec 2011 by Morphybum
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrifying and amazing, a must!
I have finally read that book I had heard quite a lot about and I certainly don't regret the experience. It has, in my opinion, just one fault; it is slightly overlong. Read more
Published on 10 July 2011 by H. Lacroix
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