2007: 183. The Bonfire of the Vanities

“And then say what? Say, ‘Forget you’re hungry, forget you got shot inna back by some racist cop - Chuck was here? Chuck come up to Harlem-’”

The Bonfire of the Vanities, Tom Wolfe

The Bonfire of the Vanities is an overwhelming book.  I found parts of it fascinating (I loved every single part that had to do with the courthouse and the legal aspects - big surprise, right?) and parts repugnant (the downfall of the poor little rich boy Sherman McCoy was both pitiful and repulsive.  The book sure makes you hate rich people in Manhattan), but all of it was fascinating.  And it still seems so relevant - both the disgusting “Masters of the Universe” New York rich, who can barely squeeze by on $20 million a year, and the real racial problems in America that the book plays with so clearly - certainly you see issues that in this book are ascribed to Harlem talked about every week on the DCist.  Sad that so little has changed, but impressive how Wolfe captures the society so vividly, really and insightfully.  I know people slammed his latest book, but I want to read more Wolfe after reading this book.  

The story, if you don’t know it, is a about a rich white guy named Sherman McCoy, who is a broker and self proclaimed Master of the Universe.  One day he is picking his mistress up at the airport and he takes a wrong turn into the Bronx.  He is involved in a hit and run of a young black man that becomes a cause celebre in New York, and ends up the story of the year, as well as the downfall of one Sherman McCoy.  A story about social class and race and media (the only person who really benefits from the story is a drunken reporter who makes good), and about America.

Recommended for:  The rich people you know in Manhattan; the people you know who hate the rich people in Manhattan

Date/Place Completed: 12/06/07; D.C.

Categories: Fiction; Commuting Book

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017