The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe

Upper East Side bond trader mows down Bronx “honor student” and New York City freaks out.

Oh, how I love Bonfire of the Vanities! I have read it several times, most memorably rereading it in the first month after I moved to New York City, way back in 1995. I don’t know that I could ever tire of reading it, because I’m always astonished by how deep Wolfe takes you into every single little nuance of the story. And it’s funny how the small details are what always stick with me most: brown lipstick, packing peanuts, Bruckner Boulevard, the little tap and the boy goes down.

This time around I enjoyed, might I say heartily so, the audiobook version. And what struck me this time is how often Wolfe turns his characters into tour guides, in order to show off how much he knows about abso-freaking-everything. Sherman has inner monologues about the greatness of Wall Street. Killian tells Sherman all about how the courts work. Abe Weiss explains Bronx politics to Larry Kramer. The narrator explains women’s fashion. I could go on but then I’d just be rewriting the book for you. And it’s all so fascinating, even the stuff that is outdated.

The narrator of the audiobook, Joe Barrett, is quite possibly the greatest actor of all time, giving voice to scores of characters and making them all original and distinct. And he does a better job with Maria Ruskin than Melanie Griffith in the atrocious movie version.

I have read everything Tom Wolfe has ever written and nothing can ever compare to this book, which is one of my all-time favorites. I can’t wait to read it again!

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