The Bonfire of the Vanities

Tom James Wolfe, Author Farrar Straus Giroux $19.95 (659p) ISBN 978-0-374-11534-0
In his spellbinding first novel, Wolfe proves that he has the right stuff to write propulsively engrossing fiction. Both his cynical irony and sense of the ridiculous are perfectly suited to his subject: the roiling, corrupt, savage, ethnic melting pot that is New York City. Ranging from the rarefied atmosphere of Park Avenue to the dingy courtrooms of the Bronx, this is a totally credible tale of how the communities uneasily coexist and what happens when they collide. On a clandestine date with his mistress one night, top Wall Street investment banker and snobbish WASP Sherman McCoy misses his turn on the thruway and gets lost in the South Bronx; his Mercedes hits and seriously injures a young black man. The incident is inflated by a manipulative black leader, a district attorney seeking reelection and a sleazy tabloid reporter into a full-blown scandal, a political football and a hokey morality play. Wolfe adroitly swings his focus from one to another of the people involved: the protagonist McCoy; Kramer, the assistant D.A.; two detectivesone Irish, the other Jewish; a slimy, alcoholic British journalist; an outraged judge, etc. He has an infallible, mocking ear for New York voices, rendering with equal precision the defense lawyer's ""gedoutdahere,'' the deliberate bad grammar (``that don't help matters'') of the wily ``reverend'' and the clenched-teeth WASP locution (`howjado''). His reporter's eye has seized every gritty detail of the criminal justice system, and he is also acute in rendering the hierarchy at a society party. He convincingly equates the jungles of Wall Street and the Bronx: in both places men casually use the same four-letter expletives and, no matter what their standing on the social ladder, find that power kindles their lust for nubile young women. Erupting from the first line with noise, color, tension and immediacy, this immensely entertaining novel accurately mirrors a system that has broken down: from the social code of basic good manners to the fair practices of the law. It is safe to predict that the book will stand as a brilliant evocation of New York's class, racial and political structure in the 1980s. 200,000 first printing; $200,000 ad/promo; Literary Guild dual main selection; author tour. (November 9)
Reviewed on: 11/02/1987
Release date: 11/01/1987
Hardcover - 552 pages - 978-0-374-11535-7
Analog Audio Cassette - 2 pages - 978-0-394-57355-7
Paperback - 976 pages - 978-0-8161-4745-8
Hardcover - 992 pages - 978-0-8161-4742-7
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