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The Bonfire of the Vanities
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About the Author

Tom Wolfe (1930-2018) was one of the founders of the New Journalism movement and the author of such contemporary classics as The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, The Right Stuff, and Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers, as well as the novels The Bonfire of the Vanities, A Man in Full, and I Am Charlotte Simmons. As a reporter, he wrote articles for The Washington Post, the New York Herald Tribune, Esquire, and New York magazine, and is credited with coining the term, "The Me Decade." Among his many honors, Tom was awarded the National Book Award, the John Dos Passos Award, the Washington Irving Medal for Literary Excellence, the National Humanities Medal, and the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. A native of Richmond, Virginia, he earned his B.A. at Washington and Lee University, graduating cum laude, and a Ph.D. in American studies at Yale. He lived in New York City.

Reviews

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)

Insulation is the key to living in New York, according to millionaire bond salesman Sherman McCoyinsulation from ``them.'' So when he makes a wrong turn one night and finds himself driving through the South Bronx in his Mercedes, he panics. In his haste to get back to Manhattan he sideswipes a pedestrian; made tabloid news by a sleazy reporter, the incident has every politician in town crying for McCoy's blood. As some critics have long maintained, Wolfe's genius may be better suited to fiction than to journalism; his novel has all the knowledge, insight, and wit of earlier works but tones down the notorious stylistic excesses. The result is not just Wolfe's most successful book to date but one of the most impressive novels of the decade. Edward B. St. John, Loyola Law Sch. Lib., Los Angeles

"A big, bitter, funny, craftily plotted book that grabs you by the lapels and won't let you go." --The New York Times Book Review "The Bonfire of the Vanities chronicles the collapse of a Wall Street bond trader, and examines a world in which fortunes are made and lost at the blink of a computer screen. . . . Wolfe's subject couldn't be more topical: New Yorkers' relentless pursuit and flaunting of wealth, and the fury it evokes in the have-nots." --USA Today "A superb human comedy and the first novel ever to get contemporary New York, in all its arrogance and shame and heterogeneity and insularity, exactly right." --The Washington Post Book World "A page-turner . . . Brilliant high comedy." --The New Republic "More than a tour de force." --Time

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