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The Bonfire of the Vanities

I have two things to say about The Bonfire of the Vanities. First, it’s profoundly racist. Not that Tom Wolfe is racist, necessarily. I don’t know the guy. But there’s not a single sympathetic black character in a 700-page book full of black characters. If there’s a non-racist explanation for this, I’d like to hear it.

Second, who ever thought that this book’s description of the excesses of Wall Street would someday sound, well, quaint? I mean, Great Jove! Sherman makes one million dollars per year? That makes him… like… a millionaire! And try to imagine an I-banker worried about losing his job over one $6 million mistake. Are you kidding? That’s petty cash! HIGH FIVE BRO!!!

I guess I don’t regret reading The Bonfire of the Vanities as a part of my cultural education. It’s just that as a piece of culture, it hasn’t aged well.


  1. There are a number of sympathetic non-white characters in A Man in Full, but then I always liked that book better. Wolfe might still be a racist, though.

    Saturday, February 6, 2010 at 18:45 | Permalink
  2. pjk wrote:

    I agree, I liked A Man in Full better as well, despite it’s bizarro ending.

    Saturday, February 6, 2010 at 21:15 | Permalink
  3. The whole idea of a guy converting to stoicism in prison is pretty odd-ball too … but still.

    Monday, February 8, 2010 at 01:05 | Permalink

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