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Bonfire of the Vanities. Tom Wolfe
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Late Doors
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 11, 2017 11:03 am    Post subject: Bonfire of the Vanities. Tom Wolfe  Reply with quote

Been on the back burner for years now. Cant really put my finger on why I haven't read it especially in my book devouring days when it first came out. Suspect it was the size of it and the subsequent New York based novels that followed and distracted me. Anyway took it on hol and couldn't put it down for four days. Didn't read the Tom Wolfe intro until afterwards and would advise anyone else not to even bother, utter indulgent  pretentious revisionism.

Wild eyed array of characters and as I was probably supposed to, i despised some of them. Curiously though I had a liking for McCoy from the start. His stroppy dog and ice cold wife had me on his side from the off and I detected a solid righteous streak in him despite the best attempts to portray his vanity and entitled greed. Likewise his lawyer seemed someone you want on your side but the English contingent had me seething with embarrassed contempt of my countrymen as is so often the case abroad.

If I was supposed to feel any sorrow or sympathy for the Bronx Inhabitants I didn't or any anger for the system that produced them either. I kept making comparisons with the Wire throughout the book and I think the latter very much nails what I thought this book lacked.

By far and away the most likeable characters were the two main cops Martin and Goldberg. Straight from the Bronx into Baltimore in the form of McNulty and Bunc/Herc. As it said on the tin though a massive bonfire of various vanities ran across the vast scope of '80s New York as scenario after scenario and character after character breathed an ugly steam around the grasping, scheming self centred aspirations of all aspects of the City and the times.

Obviously brilliantly paced and presented, saturated in sarcasm and wry humorous observation I wouldn't say laugh out loud stuff but an eager rolling of the senses as you turned the pages. I sensed time has maybe diluted its impact but very much enjoyed the book for what it is. A slice of modern history in the form of a most enjoyable novel that set the tone for later, maybe more relevant writing
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 11, 2017 3:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Years since I read BOTV but I remember thoroughly enjoying it. Two others of Wolfe's that are defo worth a look at are I Am Charlotte Simmons and A Man in Full. The latter being the best novel I read n the 90's. In fact I'd say it's in my top five novels of all time.

Another good one he did is a non-fiction called The Right Stuff about the lives of the first USAF pilots to fly outside the earths atmosphere. He got to know the pilots and all the personnel involved in the initial stages of the U.S. Space Programme, inculding the pilots families. Good fly-on-the-wall reportage.
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 14, 2017 2:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Has been on my To Read list for years. Wolfe used to walk past the building I worked in for years. I guess he lives on the Upper Eastside? One of the doormen, an Irish/Italian American. Drink on his dad's side, food his mum's was a big reader, a few of us in the building were, we'd pass books around, it was a good time in many respects. I let John my copy of Blue Bloods. I'm led to believe John had a bit of a friendship of sorts with Wolfe and would often talk books with him. I'm lead to believe Tom Wolfe has my copy of Blue Bloods.

The Right Stuff is good. I have a crap copy of it. Maybe this will inspire me to read Bonfire - shit film wasn't it?

How about your top NY books then?

I'll offer up Fortress Of Solitude, Kavailer And Clay and Lush Life (you could throw Clockers in also). For me though, Fortress is the one. Floored me and I'm not big on fiction. Can't explain it, it just works, and it's got a magic ring in it!!!
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 14, 2017 7:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I genuinely respect all of you on here that read and enjoy books. As a kid I never had my nose out of them. Reading stuff like the Dr Who books when I was really young. School reports always said I was an advanced reader.

But it must be nearly 40 years since I last read a book cover to cover. Just couldn't read a fiction book and t'internet has replaced by love of factual books (with nice pictures).

Like I say though I do respect you all for it. I am sure you will all keep it up
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 15, 2017 10:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I go through periods where I devour books, other times I won't pick one up for months. Struggle with a lot of fiction. I think it's an age thing, I can't buy into wild premises - I've actually read about it, it's pretty common. Now and again the odd book will buck that trend though. Bed by David White really did. Love a good memoir.

The internet is killing attention spans. We were told it would be a great tool for education, it's become a race to the bottom in many cases, funny videos etc...

I read loads to my kids and they read loads on their own now. Fuck knows what they read but they read and it seems to have helped them in school. I love those lazy Sundays that occasionally come to pass when we'll all be sat in the livingroom with the fire going and all reading something a book, a magazine. I read National Geographic mags to them at bed time when they were young. I loved that. I miss that.

I read a lot on the rain to and from work but right now I'm making time for reading. It's one of life's true pleasures and it's great to disengage from the madness for a while every now and then.
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 16, 2017 8:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Two of the ones you mention Cuts are on my list as well. Fortress of Solitude and Kavalier and Clay. Both the kind I had in mind along with American Phsycho  when I said BOTV had been taken over. I remember been blown away By both those books yet I've never been into American type action comics. More a Dandy and Beano lad, probably for longer than I should have been as well. Haven't seen the BOTV Film but I understand its poor. Apparently there's a Kavalier and Clay film in production. Haven't heard about your other two you mention but I'll check them out.

Random acts of senseless violence by Jack Womack is another I read about twenty years ago as a kind if futuristic dystopian kind of novel that seems to get more real every year. Think you might like it

Enjoyed Breakfast at Tiffany's years ago as well as the obvious Catcher in the Rye if we're talking New York Books.

Sadly H I am not the avid reader you hint at. Used to be and I am doing my best to get back to some satisfactory level. I'm doing alright since I left work. MrsD is a  50 Book a year person like I used to be if I could get to half that I'd be happy. I read lots of so called news and music stuff but other stuff always seems to take preference when it comes to time to read. I'm working on it though.

btw that's ace that is Cuts about your book that Tom Wolfe has now.
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 16, 2017 1:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If it's true, though John does have a good pedigree. When Robin Williams died we were all in the workshop eating breakfast talking about how great he was when John pipes up, 'Hairiest man I ever massaged.'
My daughter just did Catcher in school, it really doesn't do much for me.
https://themoth.org/stories/bicycle-safety-on-essex

Richard Price , great writer, Lush Life.
My kid tells me Kaviler and Clay is in development hell.
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 16, 2017 2:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hairiest man I ever massaged that just made me guffaw
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 16, 2017 3:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

He was a hold over from the hippie era. Great guy, some fantastic tales. You can imagine a load of blokes sat around eating bacon and egg sarnies, tea coffee, about to start work. Mostly Irish guys, builders a rough crowd. He didn't give a fuck.
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 18, 2017 7:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cutsyke wrote:
Has been on my To Read list for years. Wolfe used to walk past the building I worked in for years. I guess he lives on the Upper Eastside? One of the doormen, an Irish/Italian American. Drink on his dad's side, food his mum's was a big reader, a few of us in the building were, we'd pass books around, it was a good time in many respects. I let John my copy of Blue Bloods. I'm led to believe John had a bit of a friendship of sorts with Wolfe and would often talk books with him. I'm lead to believe Tom Wolfe has my copy of Blue Bloods.

The Right Stuff is good. I have a crap copy of it. Maybe this will inspire me to read Bonfire - shit film wasn't it?

How about your top NY books then?

I'll offer up Fortress Of Solitude, Kavailer And Clay and Lush Life (you could throw Clockers in also). For me though, Fortress is the one. Floored me and I'm not big on fiction. Can't explain it, it just works, and it's got a magic ring in it!!!


Top NY books? I've thought about it and not too many jump out at me. Most of Paul Austers novels are set in NY and I really enjoy them. They usually have one central isolated character.

Rage in Harlem by Chester Himes was a good caper.

I enjoyed Catcher in the Rye and Salinger's other three books.

Joseph Hellers Autobiography was enjoyable. All about growing up in Coney Island and Jewish family life.

So many to mention but I can't remember them off the top of my head.

PS I love Cut's Tom Wolfe anecdotes. This is a good thread.

After being intrigued by the title of the Jack Womack book LD mentioned I downloaded it on the Kindle and I'm hooked.
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 20, 2017 3:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

nice one, i remember it having a big  impact on me while i was reading it
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 21, 2017 1:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Started Bonfire. Tremendous writing. Going to get stuck into NY books this year.
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 22, 2017 6:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Late Doors wrote:
nice one, i remember it having a big  impact on me while i was reading it


This wasn't for me LD but ta for the heads up. I loved the Lola character but the whole book felt rushed and more like a plan for a novel rather than a complete novel. At 257 pages I thought it was way too short. I felt it lacked historical background on the crisis and social breakdown that had affected the America in the book and only vaguely referred to it in the occasional news bulletins. I thought this would change as the book went on but it didn't and left me wanting to know more. I can see that Womack was trying to portray how thin the veneer of 'civilised society' is and that a decent into chaos is a dangerously real and always close scenario if certain factors led to social breakdown but the book left me overcome with indifference. But what do I know, after all it is in the S.F. masterworks series of books which means it must be well thought of.

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 22, 2017 12:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

No worries, cheers for the write up. like I say it was years ago when I read it but really enjoyed it. Probably not with a critical eye, especially back then.
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 12, 2017 12:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Almost finished Bonfire, don't want it to end. A brilliant book. Next up Bright Lights Big City which should arrive tomorrow by which time I'll have finished Bonfire.
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 23, 2017 2:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thinking Bonfire and Bright Lights could both edge their way into my top 20 or so books.

I'd recommend Bright Lights Big City to just about anyone. A very quick easy read but, oh fuck me, just go read it.
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 24, 2017 12:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just read a bit about it. Sounds great, just my thing, cheers
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 24, 2017 9:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Got Joe Connelly's Bringing Out The Dead to start tonight. It's the year of the New York book in our house - at least until I get a bad one.

Bright Lights has some killer lines in it, a great running New York Post gag also. A very quick read but none the worse for it. I'll definitely investigate him further.
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PostPosted: Thu May 04, 2017 7:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Couple of other ace New York Books ive enjoyed

Fury, Salman Rushdie and Netherland, Joseph O'Neill. I think we have talked about the latter on here some time ago

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PostPosted: Thu May 04, 2017 11:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Never read anything by Salman Rushdie.

Just finished Bringing Out The Dead. If you've seen the film you know the book, it's fairly faithfully, except the book is better.

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