Book Review: “The Bonfire of the Vanities” by Tom Wolfe

I know the blog has been a bit quiet in the past few months, and that’s largely because I haven’t had an awful lot to review.  However, that’s not because of any lack of intake.  In the case of books, it’s simply because I’m a slow reader.

I finally turned the final page on Tom Wolfe’s The Bonfire of the Vanities just a few days ago.  Clocking in at nearly 700 pages, it’s been occupying my commute for the past few months.  Fortunately, it never once felt like a chore.  Bonfire is an addicting read, full of suspense, humor, and biting commentary.

Bonfire‘s main story is that of Sherman McCoy, the typical Wall Street hot-shot of the late 1980s.  Sherman, quite simply, has it all: wealth, privilege, respect, and security.  Bonfire‘s main narrative concerns Sherman’s attempt to gather even more of these things and how those efforts ultimately destroy him.  There are interweaving plot threads involving his mistress, a downtrodden assistant district attorney, a boozing British reporter, an iron-fisted judge, and a bloviating community agitator.  Wolfe’s sprawling story achieves two of my favorite things as a reader: it’s detail is so thick and precise that the world of the book enfolds you, and every single plot thread comes together for the remarkable climax and conclusion.

I picked up Bonfire because it was one of those books I’d always heard of and decided I should see what the fuss was about.  Having completed it, I highly recommend it.  It’s not without its faults, but it remains not only enjoyable but disturbingly relevant.

~ T


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