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4.0 out of 5 stars
4.0 out of 5 stars
A Man In Full
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on 3 April 2017
Read it a few times now and will go back again... very enjoyable
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on 26 August 2013
A long and really enjoyable book. It moves cleverly between the separately developing stories of the various characters involved. Their inner thoughts and motivations are drawn in great detail and it is all engrossing stuff. The author is especially sharp and funny when commenting on certain, senseless, aspects of modern life, and how they affect people and their lives. His observations are about American society but they also apply to our own.
As a bonus, halfway though the book, the development of one of its characters will introduce you to Stoic philosophy. Most people mistakenly think from our use of the word "stoic", that this must be a miserable and negative affair. Actually, it is a really positive and practical way of thinking which especially suits modern life and those of us who aren't religious. Read the book for enjoyment and then look into Stoicism to make yourself happier.
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on 12 January 1999
Tom Wolfe has few rivals as a wordsmith and pulsetaker of contemporary mores. A Man in Full is a terrific read, filled with wonderful character development, witty observations, interwoven by clever dialogue -- almost too clever. There are some unforgettable scenes, including one where insomniac Charlie Croker decides to make himself some breakfast and go horseback riding. One problem: He trips the burglar alarm and the exchange with his young, startled wife is the stuff of high comedy. I liked this book a lot, except for the ending. Charlie's "conversion" from aggressive, hard-nosed, tough-minded, wheeler-dealer real estate mogul to Stoicism feels contrived and unconvincing. In the hands of another writer, this would have been a disaster, but Wolfe almost pulls it off through the sheer strength of his stylized writing. Still, the denoument fails to live up to the rest of the book.
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VINE VOICEon 27 June 2005
I often discover great books too late - this one came out in 1998 - but I still wanted to add my voice of congratulations to Mr Wolfe on this amazing piece of work.
I took it on holiday with me after only recently discovering the genius of Bonfire of the Vanities and I was a bit nervous that this wouldn't pack the same emotional punch as that legendary novel .
But I should have had no fears. In truth, I wouldn't even like to judge/compare it against its famous cousin because both have the same power to grab your attention and keep you reading and both prove Tom Wolfe's inspiring ability to tell a cracking, knowing, multi-faceted story.
What we have here, is 800 pages of quality writing and pure page turning drama. Set in modern day Atlanta it features the unforgettable character of Charlie Croker - an all-conquering property developer who is as rich as most countries and yet, as the novel starts, looks to be facing the possible end of his world of immense luxury and power.
We watch with fascination as we see Croker's desperate battle to salvage the world he created and watch with equal (and perhaps more horrible) fascination as he tries to convince himself he is a better person that most of us suspect he actually is .
Intermingled with this riveting main tale are several superb mini-plots which involve politics, racism, sex, family rivalries and corporate America, plus a seemingly unconnected story about a decent, principled man's descent into prison life (and what an astonishing vision of prison hell Wolfe portrays). The relevance of that storyline only starts to connect with the other main threads in the last few pages but it takes the book to a surprising finale . . .
Overall, I have to say this, like Bonfire, is simply a modern day classic. It's a real page turner, written with style and verve and if full of impeccably rounded characters.
It is a book to treasure and admire .
My next 'big' read will be Wolfe's latest novel - I Am Charlotte Symonds - which I will lap up with relish even if George Bush did recommend it. And I am only two years late reading it this time!
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on 2 July 2014
I don't think even Tom Wolfe would claim to be a "great" novelist with ambitions to rival Henry James or George Eliot, but he does a really good impression of a modern-day Charles Dickens. His observation of modern-day America in "Bonfire of the Vanities" was first-rate; here he looks to Atlanta, Georgia and dissects with Dickensian skill and relish the frailties and foibles of the ruling classes there on either side of the racial divide.
The skill with which he draws the various themes and sections of the story together is considerable: we're introduced to the hero himself, and then we encounter a truly victorian cast of bloodthirsty bankers, dodgy politicos and struggling blue-collar workers. For all Charlie Croker's vanity (yes, we're back to that theme again) the greedy selfishness of financiers and simply brainless antics of low-lifes who've made it big in sport make his failings small in comparison.
Wolfe is not "great" because his purpose is all too clearly satirical and the needs of the plot therefore come first: some of his twists and turns are somewhat unlikely, but they are hugely funny in parts and, like Dickens, he uses drama to drive his point home. The sections in the factory and the prison are Dickensian in style, and they work because we actually care about the outcome and we understand how and why the characters involved have ended up in such a mess.
I found his story engrossing and rich, with some powerful chapters and unforgettable characters. He is a moral novelist, and as such he has a lesson to teach and he teaches it well.
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on 1 April 2002
After a ten year absence from fiction, Tom Wolfe has produced a book of true quality. The pithy social observation and gripping style exhibited in his previous work has clearly not diminshed with the passing of years.
The sheer scope and range of themes encompassed in 'A Man in full' represents a great achivement. It was always going to be difficult to deal with the difficult issues involved in the south's transition from arable and secondary industry to a place in the new tertiary economy without descending into cliche or sterotyping. However, Wolfe manages to adeptly convey this issue through strong character development, but whilst maintaining a clear sense of reality.
The narrative itself is pacy and gripping. The reader travels through time and place, from Atlanta to Oakland. Wolfe is able, through the book's length, to create detailed studies of several distinct protagonists, each with a paticular moral issue to confront. At the outset, it is not at all clear how these characters mesh together. Gradually, tenuous connections are formed, slithers of information linking apparently polar-opposite individuals. At this basic level, it is then, a great detective story.
The only real fault is the ending, which seems somehow contrived and hurried. After the careful, assiduous development of the characters in the early chapters, it seems they are discarded suddenly and without a true culmination.
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on 25 July 2011
Tom Wolfe gets top marks for his characterisation and his literary style, but I'm going to have to knock off a couple of points for what I perceive to be his difficulty with finishing off a story. Whilst Bonfire of the Vanities gets 100% (undoubtedly his best piece of fiction), I felt that both I Am Charlotte Simmons and A Man In Full 'raced' to slightly unsatisfactory conclusions.
That said, I rate Wolfe as one of my favourite authors and, on balance, I prefer his works to those of Updike, a contemporary of his with whom there have been some fairly public slagging matches. Don't get me wrong, Updike's works are excellent and satisfying, but I just find Wolfe more gripping and compelling.
I'd highly recommend A Man In Full, but I'd suggest that the reader reads his fiction in the order it was written. Start with Bonfire of the Vanities, then A Man In Full and finish with I Am Charlotte Simmons.
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on 20 May 1999
No one is spared in this savagely funny companion to Bonfire of the Vanities. The nearest we get to a hero ends up in jail as a result his own vanity; the upwardly mobile black lawyer is constantly ridiculed as "done up like a English diplomat", the good ole' southern boy property developer is exposed as clumsy and socially inept, the bankers are spiteful and hypocritical, the black athlete a sexual predator. This broadside on humanity is leavened by some splendid joke names such a Wringer, Fleasom & Tick (a law firm), Mustapha Gunt (a fitness instructor ho ho) and the authors' running treatise on Stoicism which lends the book its' big message. This is that people, like the city of Atlanta where much of the story is based, can develop and punch above their weight if only we seize the minute, unique advantage we are all granted. My only criticism applies also to it's predecessor and is one of pace. The narrative comes to an abrupt halt and we are give only a brief glimpse into the future of the characters that have been so painstaking drawn. Is this really Wolfe's view on the world - fifteen minutes (or his case, 800 pages) of fame and then you sink back to obscurity or did he just run out of space?
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on 21 November 1998
While some may enjoy the precious chamber pieces that win plaudits and awards ('Amsterdam', 'England, England') this reviewer prefers the courage, energy, and downright bigness of 'A Man in Full'. There are set pieces in this work which have the energy of a Green River Rising and the wit of a Gore Vidal. Who but Wolfe would set a major scene in a frozen food depot? Who but Wolfe could make such a place so alive and forbidding? Unlike almost any other serious contemporary writer the white-suited Wolfe likes to get himself dirty. He writes not from an ivory tower but from the cab of a fork-lift truck. At the same time he maintains an aloofness that miraculaously keeps the writer himself out of the narrative. Given the idiosyncacies of his style this is an amazing feat. There is none of the Look-at-me writing of Don DeLillo or other mannered craftsmen of the contemporary American novel (do we have Nabokov to blame for this?). Tom Wolfe is unafraid of politics, of morals, of big ideas. He is also very funny. As good as Bonfire, and the best novel since. A peach.
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Best way to describe this work is, that the 'sum of its parts, does not equal the whole'. Wolfe is without doubt, one of this latter half of the century's most important writers; there is plenty of evidence in this novel of that fact. Its reach is vast, touching on the themes played out in Bonfires of great divides of culture clashing at an unexpected, tragi-comic and accidental flashpoint to reveal the weakness and vanities common to all of us. The chapters that set your heart pacing faster than it really should, do so better than anything Wolfe has ever written before. But the clever and neat way Bonfires was all tied up, is clearly and disappointingly absent in the latter third of this novel. Maybe Wolfe got bored or was simply lost with his characters. Characters that are as vivid and real as you are ever likely to read. Yet being slightly disappointed by a Wolfe novel, doesn't stop it being one of my best recommendations and reads of the year.
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