38 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars New York, from gutter to social ceiling
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...
Published on 12 Aug 2005 by Budge Burgess
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Brilliantly constructed evocation of time, place and social class
This was a brilliantly constructed "masterpiece", capturing its time and place superbly (as promised on the jacket); it sweeps across the social classes by interweaving the lives of a disparate set of characters all brought to what looks like it will be a final climatic court scene. The author was able to provide sympathetic hooks for each of the characters in the story...
Published on 13 July 2008 by Mr. Philip W. Lupton
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars New York, from gutter to social ceiling,
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.
Wolfe writes with such pace and easy flow, you find yourself swept up in the dynamic of the narrative as he introduces his cast of characters and weaves them together in a vast plot which has conspiracy theory written all the way through. Wolfe's dialogue is outstanding - he creates three dimensional characters, you can almost hear their words in your eyes, can see them leap alive from the page. You can, in fact, forget the story and simply indulge yourself in enjoying the writing.
The Picador version delivers an incisive introduction by the author which sets the novel ablaze. He dissects the history of the American novel in the 20th century, pointing out that in the second half of the century novelists strove to escape the contamination of realism; they aspired to a more obscure, less accessible style.
However, the real world fought back. Americans have woken up every morning for the last twenty years or more to find their newspapers and television channels exposing scandals, corruption, political intrigue, religious hypocrisy and sexual shenanigans the like of which no author could write without being damned as too fanciful to be credible.
The real world has become like the combined imaginations of a creative writing class on drugs. Novelists seem like boring drudges in comparison. And Wolfe delivers the examples of characters about whom he was writing being pre-empted by real life events - he's had to rewrite because the story has happened already and he'll simply be accused of lifting the idea from the 'Times' or CNN.
Wolfe's world of New York is a vibrant, frustrating, infuriating, cesspit of trivial drama and petty positioning. He demonstrates that the novelist can deliver insights which newspapers and television news cannot. Wolfe explores a world where everyone is striving to feel morally superior, culturally superior, physically superior. He delivers a city about which you can laugh ... and delivers insights which cause you to sit back and reflect on your own vanities, self-satisfaction, and insecurities.
A superb novel by a brilliant writer - dynamic, acerbic, hilarious, tragic, painful ... and universally human.
5.0 out of 5 stars Get the New York vibe!,
Loved this book, couldn't put it down. I'm going to New York for the first time in a few months and wanted to read something which would give me a feel for the city. Even though this book is set in the eighties, I think, you feel like you get to know the city; the streets, the areas, the people, the vernacular, some history and the vibe of the place. We meet characters from different ethnic groups uptown, downtown and over in unsavoury Brooklyn who make for a very exciting and colourful story which leaves you with plenty to reflect on as the issues are still very relevant to today.Highly recommended.
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 and readable way with a cracking story in which shows whilst skin can be black or white, the truth is generally a shade of grey.
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. The lifestyles of characters across classes and wealth barriers are depicted perfectly as decadence and despair clash together. Their fears and desires as isolated people in a hectic city are well-observed. Brilliant storytelling.
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, with the poor and disadvantaged seen through their eyes in a distorted way, yet Wolfe manages to convince us of just how unjust, self-seeking, artificial, ruthless and ridiculous upper-class New Yorkers are. All the characters are credible, and even the very minor ones in the huge cast are devastatingly captured - for example, Mrs Pitt, known as 'the bottomless Pitt' because of her extreme and fashionable thinness. When the whole of society is based on a complete absence of morality - there isn't an admirable character in the book - the ending, which in a way seems disappointingly inconclusive, is on reflection exactly what would happen. Despite all this, the needle-sharp writing kept me reading and enjoying it till the end. It seems all too relevant to present-day financial workers. Particularly funny - and I mean laugh-out-loud funny - is the chapter called 'Death New York Style'. Read it!
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. This book is a must read for all as it says so much about the human race and the choices we make and how being in the wrong place at the wrong time can change the course of your life. The excesses of the 80's are beautifully portrayed and this book really makes you think. If in doubt read it you will not be disappointed.
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 lifestyles and questionable morals are all explored in the backdrop of intertwining tales which collide through a hit and run incident.
The characters are well constructed and believable and you are driven on through the melee as their individual stories merge.
Don't miss it, it's a great read.
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. It is based on the fall from grace of a leading New York socialite, sacrificed for votes by the mayor. It is a story of courage opening the doors of New York's top society. If you want to know what they think and do, read on.
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.
A very fulfilling read-I should have read it years ago when it was first published
7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sensational!,
By A Customer
This review is from: The Bonfire of the Vanities (Picador Books) (Paperback)
A truly incredible read - a landmark novel in every sense. The message about the society we live in today is put across with intelligence and wit, and the characterisation is masterful. But what really strikes me about this book is how it is clearly a product of its setting - the energy and vibrancy of New York is as vividly portrayed as the city's darker recesses in Wolfe's prose. The only time I've ever finished a book and then turned straight back to page one to start again.
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Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe (Paperback - Dec 1990)
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