Chelsea's Reviews > The Bonfire of the Vanities

The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe
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's review
Jul 02, 07

Read in June, 2007

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 they're of no use to anyone.

The book explores racial and class tensions in New York City in the 80's, but from a distinctly white male point of view (there are plenty of female and black characters; Wolfe just doesn't get into their heads). That's the premise, though... we see New York from the perspective of all these white men, in different places in the NYC food chain, who all see themselves as Masters of the Universe for various petty reasons. The question is whether the biggest Master of them all will end up questioning his role in the social order after he gets caught up in the political and criminal machine of the Bronx.
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