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Back to Blood Paperback – 2 Jul 2013

3.6 out of 5 stars 65 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 720 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (2 July 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099578530
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099578536
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 4.4 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 185,830 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"Back to Blood dazzles so much that you might want to read it through dark glasses" (Simon O’Hagan Independent on Sunday)

"Tom Wolfe returns with a thunderous thwack, fizzing outrageously with a slipstreamed comet of a novel… It’s even better than his great hit The Bonfire of the Vanities. Unmissable stuff" (Tom Adair Scotsman)

"Exhilarating… The satire is scalpel-like and very funny." (Wynn Wheldon Spectator)

"Energising, fascinating – and utterly exhausting." (Tim Walker Independent)

"If this novel were rushed into A&E, it would immediately be put under heavy sedation." (Peter Kemp Sunday Times)

Book Description

Tom Wolfe is back, with his most brilliant novel since The Bonfire of the Vanities, jettisoning us into the turbulent heart of America’s racial vortex: Miami.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
He may now be 81, but there are no signs that Tom Wolfe is mellowing. Is his latest "Back to Blood" another magnificent addition to the Wolfe Hall or is he merely bringing up the bodies? Well for me, it's a little of both. The book's great strength and also its main weakness are in the similarities between this Miami-set story of racial and cultural tension and his New York-set classic "The Bonfire of the Vanities". There are familiar themes: newspapers, racial tension, the super-rich behaving disgracefully and lost in their own ego-mania, and a lively writing style shot through with angry humour, all of which bring to mind "The Bonfire of the Vanities". As there, he takes several characters from different worlds whose lives intersect in unexpected ways. But while taking those ingredients might seem a very welcome thing, the end result suffers in comparison.

Part of the problem is that the issues in New York that were part of "The Bonfire of the Vanities" seemed to define an age and had things that readers can recognize as, albeit extreme, versions of what they might see in their own cities and countries. The Miami issues are, to a degree, specific to that city and thereby hangs part of the issue. Racial tension is not, of course, confined to Miami, but the extreme pressure of the Cuban influx is, although that's not to imply that lessons cannot be learned from here. However, a further factor is that there are other writers, notably Carl Hiaasen who have made a career out of Miami novels so it's debatable how much new that Wolfe is able to bring to the table. With "Bonfire", you felt that Wolfe really lived the New York experience. With "Back to Blood" you feel that he has researched it.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Miami gets the tom Wolfe treatment in the same way that New York did in Bonfire and Atlanta did (to a lesser extent) in A Man in Full. I can't say that I know Miami, but I also can't say I know Miami much better after reading this book. Much as I admire and like Tom Wolfe, I was reminded an awful lot of another Floridian author, Carl Hiassen, as I read Back to Blood. Except that Hiassen doesn't have to live up to being A Novelist and just gets on with his plot. Wolfe, however, carries the burden of being An Important American Writer, and I felt it showed in this novel. He tries to insert little stylistic twists into his narrative that seemed a bit forced and which ultimately became irritating as the book progressed. Frustratingly, I could see no need for this as Wolfe can write as gripping a story as anyone without any need for tricky prose. The opening scenes of Back to Blood testify to this, with a set piece that is imaginative, original and amusing, catapulting you into the novel with one swoop.
Once you're caught, Wolfe pulls you into his Miami world. As in many of his novels, he's peopled it with a variety of larger than life characters but, I have to say, none are too convincing. I kept getting the feeling, if anything, that Miami was NOT like Wolfe portrays it. This was a WASP's view and, as he demonstrated in Bonfire of the Vanities, that's a world he knows inside out. But what does Tom Wolfe know of how a Hiatian or a Cuban views the world of South Florida? He failed to convince me that he knew much, really, and he also failed to convince me that he could write with any authority about how young people see the world either. Whichever character's voice he chose to narrate a scene, the voice of Tom Wolfe tended to drown it out.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There's a scene towards the end of Back to Blood when we finally get inside the secret studio of the elusive Russian artist Igor Drukovich. In public an arch-devotee of realism, Igor has hidden away in his studio a series of copies of modernist, surrealist, abstract and cubist masterpieces by the likes of Picasso, Matisse, Kandinksy and Braque -- the very artists he sneers at in public. But it turns out they are perfect forgeries Igor has been living off, laughing behind his hand as he deludes the art establishment which has rejected him.
It's hard not to suspect this might have something to do with Wolfe's own very public spat with the literary modernists. Like his character Igor, Wolfe is an exponent of realism in an age when it's out of fashion. Like Igor, he has publicly attacked the fashionable . Is he perhaps hinting that, like Igor, he could effortlessly replicate his rivals' works, while they couldn't copy his realism?
The thing is, though, that Wolfe hasn't proved all that versatile in his fictional career. After the dazzling success of Bonfire of the Vanities and A Man in Full he decided to turn his hand to something different in I am Charlotte Simmons. He tried to write the sort of novel his rivals excel at, set on the small canvas of a university campus, and focused on the interior life of its characters, but the result fell flat. Robbed of material suited to the satire at which he excels, he fell back on toilet humour -- literally, with a grotesque recital of the gruntings and strainings of a male undergraduate at stool.
Thankfully in Back to Blood he is back to what he does best, painting the life of an entire city, and following a wide cast of characters and the intricate ways they're connected. The protagonist is Nestor Camacho, an ambitious young cop.
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