“The Bonfire of the Vanities” by Tom Wolfe


What’s it about?

Set in New York in the 1980s, the novel is a brilliant character study about race, politics, greed and egotism. The main protagonist is millionare Sherman McCoy, a Wall Street bonds salesman and self proclamed “Master of the Universe” who becomes involved in a hit and run accident in the Bronx while out with his mistress. Crossing paths with an alcoholic journalist, a desperate district attorney and a shady activist, the tale of Sherman McCoy falls into a dark and satirical drama filled with deception, bureaucracy, social snobbery and betrayl.

Worth reading because:

There has been a recent spate of films and books re-living the good olde greedy times on Wall Street (recent and past), but this is one of the best. Don’t watch the film though, read the book!

Any other books by this author worth reading?

The only other Tom Wolfe I have read is The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. It is a non-fiction account of the experiences of Ken Kesey and his group who travelled around in a bus spreading the beginnings of the hippie movement, they were famous for their use of psychedelic drugs.

Choice Cuts:

There it was, the Rome, the Paris, the London of the twentieth century, the city of ambition, the dense magnetic rock, the irresistible destination of all those who insist on being where things are happening—and he was among the victors!

On Wall Street he and a few others – how many? – three hundred, four hundred, five hundred? – had become precisely that … Masters of the Universe.

Still a very good-looking woman, my wife…with her fine thin features, her big clear blue eyes, her rich brown hair…But she’s forty years old!…No getting around it…Today good-looking…Tomorrow they’ll be talking about what a handsome woman she is…Not her fault…But not mine, either!


Have you read The Bonfire of the Vanities? What did you think?