Wolfe Turns “The Bonfire” Upside Down

Review of A Man in Full. Michiko Kakutani, New York Times, October 28, 1998.

While Tom Wolfe’s first novel, ”The Bonfire of the Vanities” (1987), gave us a satiric portrait of New York in the giddy go-go years of the 1980’s — those heady years when bond salesmen could think of themselves as ”Masters of the Universe” — his sprawling new novel, ”A Man in Full,” gives us an equally entertaining portrait of Atlanta in the 1990’s, an era when greed has begun to give way to debt, capitalistic hubris to premillennial doubts.

It’s clear, almost from the start, that ”A Man in Full” (which will be available in stores on Nov. 9) is a big if qualified leap forward for Mr. Wolfe as a novelist. The cartoonish cast of ”Bonfire” — a collection of physical and sartorial tics animated by heaps of authorial malice — has been replaced by characters who bear more of a resemblance to real, sympathetic human beings, and Mr. Wolfe’s novelistic canvas has expanded persuasively to include not merely the powerful and rich but also the poor and middle-class…

New York Times