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The Bonfire of the Vanities Paperback – 7 Jan 2010

4.5 out of 5 stars 70 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 752 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Classics (7 Jan. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099541270
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099541271
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 3.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (70 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 8,694 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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)

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

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Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Paperback
Wolfe’s big 80s satire is a strange beast. In some respects it works very well and in others it is dissatisfying, even irritating. The plot itself is really rather simple but Wolfe compensates for this by closely examining the day-to-day lives and experiences of his characters, and although not much actually happens what does occur is described at length and with flourish. The characters are larger than life and again Wolfe delights in telling us much about their appearance, mores, and behaviours. Unfortunately not one of them is relatable or likeable. He is very good at imparting the growing sense of fear and desperation felt by Sherman McCoy, especially during certain lengthy depictions of his experiences at the hands of the New York judicial system, but it’s hard to care much because McCoy is so unsympathetic. Wolfe is annoyingly fond of homophonous interpretations of accents and the sounds people make, and he also has something of an obsession with exclamation marks (there are scores in the first few pages alone, although he does calm down a little after that). I also felt a little cheated by the fact that many of the characters reach no resolution and simply fade away as the book progresses. Even the epilogue, which hastily ties up some of their stories (including McCoy’s) reads like an afterthought and is not as convincing as I would have liked. THE BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES is like a feast of lavish snacks rather than a wholesome meal, and ultimately fails to live up to its many sumptuous parts. But Wolfe writes with skill and verve and this is never a dull book even if it’s not as satisfying as it should be.
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