The Bonfire of the Vanities
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The Bonfire of the Vanities

3.75 of 5 stars 3.75  ·  rating details  ·  36,890 ratings  ·  1,519 reviews
After Tom Wolfe defined the '60s in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and Radical Chic and Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers and the cultural U-turn at the turn of the '80s in The Right Stuff, nobody thought he could ever top himself again. In 1987, when The Bonfire of the Vanities arrived, the literati called Wolfe an "aging enfant terrible."

He wasn't aging; he was growing up.

...more
Kindle Edition, 706 pages
Published (first published 1987)
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Rajat Ubhaykar
This book was a refreshing change from the introspective, thoughtful books I'd been reading. It had been a while since a book had me glued to the bed all day, lying on my right side or lying on my left side, with the A/C turned on or with the A/C turned off, wearing my shirt or not wearing my shirt, with the book in hand or without the book in hand, marveling at a particular turn of phrase or dreaming about juicy jugs and loamy loins (a Wolfism). This lengthy novel at 700 pages was a page turner...more
Shovelmonkey1
Mar 02, 2012 Shovelmonkey1 rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: yuppies and lemon tarts
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: 1001 books list
Bonfire of the Vanities is not so much one massive pyre but several large and closely situated camp-fire like conflagrations.

Conflagration 1: Master of the Universe, bond baron and archetypal WASP Sherman McCoy, has reached the top of his particular tree and is enjoying the view from on high while ensuring that his chin is always seen at the right angle. It is nice being at the top of things because well, lets face it, no one wants to be at the bottom. The problem with being at the top of the t...more
Sparrow
May 27, 2013 Sparrow rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: JAM, Caris
Recommended to Sparrow by: McKenzie
I hope Tom Wolfe has gotten so laid because of this book. I hope women have put down this book, thrown on some lingerie, and walked over to his apartment – unless Wolfe is gay, in which case, I hope men have done the lingerie thing. I hope women (or men) invented a time machine to travel back in time and lay young Tom Wolfe because of this book. I hope Tom Wolfe has gotten anybody he’s ever wanted – x-ray, lemon tart, girls with any shade of lipstick imaginable, men with impressive sternocleidom...more
K.D. Absolutely
Jun 28, 2010 K.D. Absolutely rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 100 Must Read Books for Men; 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006 to 2010)
Shelves: 1001-core, guy-lit
This book is noisy. Too noisy that it makes it painful to read. The characters are always talking as if they are all suffering from dialog diarrhea. Not only that. Wolfe likes to capture every single sound from either human or non-human entities in the novel. Take this as an example:

Haw haw haw haw haw haw haw, sang the Towheaded Tenor...Hack hack hack hack hack hack hack, sang Inez Bavardage....Hock hock hock hock hock hock hock hock hock hock hock, bawled his own wife.

or this:

The elevator star...more
Chelsea
Wow. I started off feeling very lukewarm about this one, mostly because I couldn't get over my distaste for some of the characters. But about 100 pages in I started to feel confused about whom I actually felt sympathetic toward (the only truly good character never gets to speak). 200 pages in, I couldn't stop reading anymore. This book is hilarious in a bitter and infuriating way. It's a study of how people will use each other and not even notice how they are routinely used by other people until...more
Noce
Ove la recensionista si rianima e decide che potrebbe ancora diventare qualcuno.

Ok sono pronta:

prima guardate questa foto.

http://i874.photobucket.com/albums/ab...

Ora questa.

http://i874.photobucket.com/albums/ab...

Ora quest’altra.

http://i874.photobucket.com/albums/ab...

Chi è l’intruso?

Troppo difficile? Ok, cercherò di rendervi il gioco più facile.

Un attimo che mescolo le carte. Non guardate eh?

Ok, potete girarvi. Prima foto:

http://i874.photobucket.com/albums/ab...

Adesso guardate questa:

http://i87...more
Chris
Dear Mr. Wolfe,

While I agree that your insistence upon wearing your white suits incessantly allows you to cut a rather eccentric figure, and while I too would have relished the opportunity to cavort with the Merry Pranksters while remaining resolutely sober--in short, sir, as much as I respect and admire your air of debonair Protestant abstemiousness--I must protest. Your prose is by turns flavorless and overbearing, and your endless and unnecessary recourse to ellipsises and the exclamation poi...more
Manny
A terrific book! I remember reading a review where someone called him "a day-glo Dickens". I am not personally a big Dickens fan, but presumably the person who wrote this was, and I agree with his sentiment. Wolfe takes apart late 80's US society in the same way Dickens did with British society a hundred years earlier... all the characters are larger-than-life parodies, but that's the charm of it. Both the narrative and the dialogue are hysterically funny. Or at least I thought so - I can see fr...more
Chris
A hilarious and damning indictment of Wall Street, the media, the criminal justice system, and, well, America. Every element of Tom Wolfe’s novel is virtually flawless--an engrossing plot, memorable scenes, a conversational style of writing replete with sardonic wit, themes both overt and subtle... and the characters, ah, the characters.

Wolfe’s talent lies, I think, in his ability to paint such tragic, deeply flawed characters in a comical yet sympathetic light. The characters are written so viv...more
Paul

Well well, I find I never reviewed this one. It wooshed back into my mind yesterday when I came across the hangover scene in Lucky Jim – Tom Wolfe was clearly trying to go one better with the various hangovers suffered by his slimy English journalist character. This is something that happens in art. You like a thing, could be a movie or a novel, and then you find a chunk of it was an artful homage or riff on or nod toward or blatant ripoff of something you hadn’t come across yet. I would give yo...more
Holly Goguen
Jul 06, 2008 Holly Goguen rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Holly by: hollygoguen@gmail.com
After reading a few books recently by first-time authors, I felt like I stumbled into the definition of mastery with this book.
It's thick and deeply descriptive, so visceral.... and the language is amazing. Wolfe captures accents so deliciously well that you find yourself speaking the words along with the characters....to blend yourself into the sound environment with them.

I've never been so grateful for tightly woven backgrounds and stages so artfully set. I hate being plopped into the lives...more
Solitairerose
When I am asked what my favorite book ever is, this is one that immediately springs to mind. Wolfe's writing is some of the best of the 20th Century, and this story of investment bankers, homeless people and the collusion between rich and poor is the best explanation of the 80's, and manages to be a story that explains more about an era than any history of the time ever could. Wolfe has moved from recreating how non-fiction was written to a brilliant novelist.
Mikey B.
This novel still reads well and remains topical after more than twenty-five years. Mr. Wolfe handles confrontations with great verve and wit – these are confrontations between very distinct groups of people – bankers, district attorneys, ghetto thugs, preachers, journalists, detectives... Mr. Wolfe also perpetuates tremendous momentum through-out this six hundred page book.

His observations of society through these different class groups are astute. For instance the detectives are bewildered by t...more
Joy H.
Added 1/2/11.
While reviewing my GR shelves, I realized that I had read this book quite a while ago, but failed to include in my GR list of books read. I remember enjoying the book. I also remember that, as usual, the movie didn't come up to the book, for me.

January 29, 2012:
As to the meaning of the book title "Bonfire of the Vanities",
GR member, Margaret [ http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/13... ] sent me a message which said the following about the title:
=======================================...more
Philip
I have to admit, I was skeptical of this book before we started reading it. The jordabekcer-book-club choices are always great, but we've been heading down this path of picking only 500+ page books that we wouldn't otherwise read. Maybe they haven't all been that long, but it appears that they will be in the near future.

I guess the thinking is, "If I have to wait 1200 pages of The Stand, 700 pages of Bonfire of the Vanities and 600?+ pages of The First Tycoon, then my pick had better be worth it...more
Anthony
Unlikeable characters. I had no interest in city politics, tabloid journalism, park avenue or criminal law, an exhausting read with too much detail, too much scenery yet Great book, Great story, great read!
Well written, the heart of the book has a sound purpose, a fun read in spite of itself.

Wolfe did detailed research and drew on his own experiences as hedge fund investor. He wrote the book in serial installments for Rolling Stone and then rewrote it again (two years to rewrite) because he was...more
Elizabeth
I had a friend who said that in the future when people point to a movie and say, "That's what the '80s were like, they'll point to Oliver Stone's "Wall Street." That's what I think about this book.

A bonds trader hits and kills a guy in a scary neighborhood and then runs scared. What's more '80s than that? It's got greed, excess, and Bernard Goetz all rolled into one.

I actually got to hear Tom Wolfe talk about this book while I was in college in the mid-'80s. He wrote it as a serial in Rolling S...more
Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh
A thick and delectable tale of the low life & high life of New York society just before the bubble burst. Wolfe deserves his title as the master of social satire.
Lori Summers
Holy cow. I have finally finished this book. I didn’t really appreciate how long it was when I started it. That’s another benefit of Kindles – you can’t be intimidated or put off by the sheer size and heft of a really long novel. They all feel the same when they’re ebooks. According to Amazon the hardcover edition of this tome is 659 pages. My Kindle for PC app put it at 688. By any reckoning it’s a long-ass book.

It’s also one of Those Books. The books that are cultural touchstones, the books th...more
Jason
I finished this last night, and I've been mulling it over all day. On the one hand, Wolfe is a talented writer, capable of creating vivid, visceral scenes. On the other hand, he relies on a lot of crutches, most notably the ellipsis-riddled paragraph to represent the frenzied thoughts of a person in panic.

Wolfe does a remarkable job of creating a bunch of horrible characters who we nonetheless end up having some positive feelings for at the end of the story. However, the reason we end up sympath...more
Zanna
At the time I read this book I was very ignorant about the politics of race in the USA, and reading it introduced me to my whiteness; it thoroughly decentred me and I never thought of myself as the universal again. Subsequently I tried to read some of Wolfe's work on politics and architecture and I couldn't, it was horrendous, and that reminded me that I don't clearly remember the point of The Bonfire, I only remember the dynamics of race and class privilege being played out in a New York I had...more
Madeline
This book made a much deeper impression on me than I expected it to. At the very least, I will never look at jury duty in the same way again.
So, the plot in a nutshell: Sherman McCoy, a wealthy investment banker (white, obviously), is driving his mistress home from the airport one night when they take a wrong turn and end up in the Bronx. This ends with them hitting a nineteen-year-old black boy and then driving away. The story follows McCoy trying to cover up the accident while the Bronx detec...more
Jennifer
I have to say I don't think I have ever read a novel with such an accurate view of the world. With the exception of little details that dated the novel, I felt like I was seeing (reading?) a snapshot of New York today. Not that it doesn't apply to the rest of the country. If you look at Wolfe's portrayal of the media, the authorities, and race relations and then take a look at your community, you'll see the similarities.
As I was taking a quick break from Trollope, it was refreshing to see a nove...more
Kwame
"'Holy fucking shit!" shouted the Yale men and the Harvard men and the Stanford men. "Ho-lee fucking shit.' How these sons of the great universities, these legatees of Jefferson, Emerson, Thoreau, William James, Frederick Jackson Turner, William Lyons Phelps, Samuel Flagg Bemis, and the other three name giants of of American Scholarship-how these inheritors of the lux and the veritas now flocked to Wall Street and to the bond-trading room of Pierce and Pierce! How the stories circulated on every...more
Mark
This book is a whole other beast. Throughout Wolfe uses phonetics to great effect in casting his characters in all their brutal-and-suave-tongued rage. The Haves rave against the Have-nots; the Have-nots rage against the rich. And in the end, every single character, the Haves and Have-nots alike, is no better than the other. The only way you win is to embrace your animal nature, the nature to survive at all costs.

I found the character of Peter Fallow dull throughout most of the novel, but as th...more
Simon
Gripping and hugely enjoyable satire on Wall Street excess and the politics of class and race. Written nearly thirty years ago, it felt surprisingly fresh to me. Depressingly so, in fact, as it’s pretty clear that little has changed in Mammon’s engine rooms in all that time. If anything, the sexual transgressions of Sherman McCoy and his chums (traditional extra-marital affairs, ditching the old wife for a younger one) seem almost courtly compared to what these tosspots get up to nowadays in the...more
Justine
When a former co-worker recommended I read the Bonfire of the Vanities, he said that it is an economist's book because it is a book about systems rather than individuals. I was intrigued, but held back because 1) let's face it, not the top of my list and 2) David Foster Wallace (love of my literary life) wrote a rather scathing essay about Wolfe and his generation of American writers who are sexist, macho, and generally yucky and unenlightened. After having finished the book, both the economist...more
Beth
A few years ago, during the "Duke Lacrosse case" people speculated that Wolfe's "I am Charlotte Simmons," which described sexual promiscuity of a lacrosse player, was set at Duke.
Maybe.
But The Bonfire of the Vanities captures much of the feeling of being on campus at that time. The protagonist, a wealthy white man, was doing something he shouldn't have been doing - but is accused of something he didn't quite do. People can't resist the narrative of the privileged white male committing a crime a...more
Mosca
Nov 22, 2012 Mosca rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: Nobody that I like
Recommended to Mosca by: I'm trying to forget
............................
"Vampire of the Banalities"

This is a very unimpressive work. So very hyped up at the time of it's publication! And so representative of the worst of one our most self-inflated and shameless decades.

Certainly, the eighties produced some good literature; but that did not include this work.

This book purports to tackle some of the more challenging issues of our times: race, power, capitalism, etc. But this ends up as a superficial writing exercise in the author's own con...more
Bennett Cohen
I read this book on vacation and it proved to be a great read for airplanes and beaches. I even bought most of the philosophical digressions and found myself mulling over some of the ideas Wolfe works in about self and society.

My only substantial gripe was the ending. Up until the last 80 pages or so the story seemed so realistic and I found the ending and epilogue pretty absurd.

Nonetheless, a great New York story. Wall Street Powerhouses, Crack-Dealers, Rent Control-- what more could you ask? I...more
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Wolfe was educated at Washington and Lee Universities and also at Yale, where he received a PhD in American studies.

Tom Wolfe spent his early days as a Washington Post beat reporter, where his free-association, onomatopoetic style would later become the trademark of New Journalism. In books such as The Electric Koolaid Acid Test, The Right Stuff, and The Bonfire of the Vanities, Wolfe delves into...more
More about Tom Wolfe...
The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test The Right Stuff I am Charlotte Simmons A Man in Full Back to Blood

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“Bullshit reigns.” 44 likes
“Sherman made the terrible discovery that men make about their fathers sooner or later... that the man before him was not an aging father but a boy, a boy much like himself, a boy who grew up and had a child of his own and, as best he could, out of a sense of duty and, perhaps love, adopted a role called Being a Father so that his child would have something mythical and infinitely important: a Protector, who would keep a lid on all the chaotic and catastrophic possibilities of life. ~Tom Wolfe” 11 likes
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