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The Bonfire of the Vanities

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The Bonfire of the Vanities Cover

ISBN13: 9780553275971
ISBN10: 0553275976
Condition: Standard
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Tom Wolfes modern American satire tells the story of Sherman McCoy, a Wall Street “Master of the Universe” who has it all a Park Avenue apartment, a job that brings wealth, power and prestige, a beautiful wife, an even more beautiful mistress.

Suddenly, one wrong turn makes it all go wrong, and Sherman spirals downward in a sudden fall from grace that sucks him into the ravenous heart of a New York City gone mad during the go-go, racially turbulent, socially hilarious 1980s.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

About the Author

Tom Wolfe is the author of a dozen books, among them such contemporary classics as The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, The Right Stuff, and The Bonfire of the Vanities. A native of Richmond, Virginia, he earned his B.A. at Washington and Lee University and a Ph.D. in American studies at Yale. He lives in New York City.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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GDuperreault, December 26, 2012 (view all comments by GDuperreault)
This was one of the few books I've read because of the chit chat around it. The movie, which I felt had potential but which I thought was ultimately a directorial failure, was the final element that brought me to pick this book up. I was curious at how the movie failed and needed to read the book to see if my impression that it was a directorial failure was accurate or not. My reading that book did not answer that question with any certainty because BotV has become one of the touch stone books marking me as an outsider to the society within which I live. Its award winning popularity is a complete mystery to me. Poorly written, it has uninteresting characters and characterization espousing a heavy handed superficial morality -- sort of. My few observations of Wolfe in book interviews did not in any way dissuade me that he is an overrated wind-bag, filled with ego and hubris and little of what I would consider critical intelligence. It struck me that he was an apologist for American hegemony both domestic and foreign.

So, with that in mind it was with surprise and even fascination that I read a Tom Wolfe encomium of American domestic practices under Reagan get severely castigated by Noam Chomsky. In his satirically way, Chomsky basically puts Wolfe's social commentary into the ranks of the rantings of a delusional apologist for the greed-based policies that successfully impoverished the majority to the benefit of the very few. So, in a perversion of a 'proper' book review, here is a taste of Chomsky chastising Tom Wolfe -- note, I hadn't even heard of Chomsky before reading BotV:
...
What the [economic] "paradox" [in 1992 of a 'Weak Economy but Strong Profits'] entails for the general population is demonstrated by numerous studies of income distribution, real wages, poverty, hunger, infant mortality, and other social indices. A study released by the Economic Policy Institute on Labor Day, 1992, fleshed out the details of what people know from their experience: after a decade of Reaganism, "most Americans are working longer hours for lower wages and considerably less security," and "the vast majority" are "in many ways worse off" than in the late 1970s. From 1987, real wages have declined even for the college educated. "Poverty rates were high by historic standards," and "those in poverty in 1989 were significantly poorer than the poor in 1979." The poverty rate rose further in 1991, the Census Bureau reported. A congressional report released a few days later estimates that hunger has grown by 50 percent since the mid-1980s to some 30 million people. Other studies show that one of eight children under 12 suffers from hunger, a problem that reappeared in 1982 after having been overcome by government programs from the 1960s. Two researchers report that in New York, the proportion of children raised in poverty more than doubled to 40 percent, while nationwide, "the number of hungry American children grew by 26 percent" as aid for the poor shrank during "the booming 1980s "... one of the great golden moments that humanity has ever experienced," a spokesman for the culture of cruelty proclaimed (Tom Wolfe Boston Globe February 1990).

The impact is brought out forcefully in more narrowly-focused studies; for example, at the Boston City Hospital, where researchers found that "the number of malnourished, low-weight children jumped dramatically following the coldest winter months," when parents had to face the agonizing choice between heat or food. At the hospital's clinic for malnourished children, more were treated in the first nine months of 1992 than in all of 1991; the wait for care reached two months, compelling the staff to "resort to triage." Some suffer from Third World levels of malnutrition and require hospitalization, victims of "the social and financial calamities that have befallen families" and the "massive retrenchment in social service programs" (Boston Globe September 8, 25, 1992). By the side of a road, men hold signs that read "Will Work for Food," a sight that recalls the darkest days of the Great Depression. (Year 501: The Conquest Continues p280-1).

I am being a little mean here, I fully acknowledge. But in the few Wolfe interviews I saw, I found myself becoming angry that a bad writer was being heralded as a visionary and truth seeker to be paraded by the media in their campaign to mis-represent the extent of income polarity and impoverishment that is the direct result of American policies that are benefiting very few, but doing so to a staggering degree(less)
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780553275971
Author:
Wolfe, Tom
Publisher:
Bantam
Location:
Toronto ;
Subject:
General
Subject:
Fiction
Subject:
City and town life
Subject:
General Fiction
Copyright:
Edition Number:
Bantam ed.
Edition Description:
Mass market paperback
Series Volume:
1459
Publication Date:
19881101
Binding:
Paperback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Yes
Pages:
704
Dimensions:
6.85x4.17x1.22 in. .73 lbs.

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