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The Bonfire of the Vanities | [Tom Wolfe]

The Bonfire of the Vanities

Tom Wolfe's best-selling modern classic tells the story of Sherman McCoy, an elite Wall Street bond trader who has it all: wealth, power, prestige, a Park Avenue apartment, a beautiful wife, and an even more beautiful mistress - until one wrong turn sends Sherman spiraling downward into a humiliating fall from grace. A car accident in the Bronx involving Sherman, his girlfriend, and two young lower-class black men sets a match to the incendiary racial and social tensions of 1980s New York City.
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Publisher's Summary

Tom Wolfe's best-selling modern classic tells the story of Sherman McCoy, an elite Wall Street bond trader who has it all: wealth, power, prestige, a Park Avenue apartment, a beautiful wife, and an even more beautiful mistress - until one wrong turn sends Sherman spiraling downward into a humiliating fall from grace.

A car accident in the Bronx involving Sherman, his girlfriend, and two young lower-class black men sets a match to the incendiary racial and social tensions of 1980s New York City. Suddenly, Sherman finds himself embroiled in the most brutal, high-profile case of the year, as prosecutors, politicians, the press, the police, the clergy, and assorted hustlers rush in to further their own political and social agendas. With so many egos at stake, the last priority on anyone's mind is truth or justice in this bitingly hilarious American satire.

©1987 Tom Wolfe; (P)2009 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"A big, bitter, funny, craftily plotted book that grabs you by the lapels and won't let go." (New York Times Book Review)
"Sheer entertainment against a fabulous background....Often hilarious, and much, much more." (Kirkus Reviews)
"Erupting from the first line with noise, color, tension and immediacy....brilliant." (Publishers Weekly)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.0 (1084 )
5 star
 (455)
4 star
 (336)
3 star
 (179)
2 star
 (61)
1 star
 (53)
Overall
4.1 (638 )
5 star
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4 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Story
4.2 (637 )
5 star
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4 star
 (191)
3 star
 (71)
2 star
 (22)
1 star
 (22)
Performance
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  •  
    Derek Loganville, GA, United States 12-06-11
    Derek Loganville, GA, United States 12-06-11 Member Since 2002
    HELPFUL VOTES
    49
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    "Far too tedious and excruciatingly detailed"

    I just could not finish it. I got about halfway through the second part and found myself feeling like I was on a forced march going "let's just get this one over with." At that point, why finish it? I think the story has promised based on the movie. Unfortunately, Wolfe goes into so much excruciating and unnecessary detail on the most mundane points that you lose focus on the story. Throw in a terrible narrator who overdoes almost every character and I simply could not take it and said, "Next!" Based on my experience with "Man in Full" many years, I should have been wary of another Tom Wolfe book. I won't make the mistake again.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dwain Sequim , WA, USA 04-28-10
    Dwain Sequim , WA, USA 04-28-10
    HELPFUL VOTES
    6
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    "Terrific Read"

    I did not realize how broken I was until Wolfe showed me the light. It is important to be reminded that one cannot change human nature. And what about that narration!

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    david chesapeake, VA, United States 04-16-10
    david chesapeake, VA, United States 04-16-10 Member Since 2009

    A fellow listener inclined to share my opinion on these productions. Maybe even inspire someone toward a powerful, or educational audiobook!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "I was riveted till the end!!!"

    This had me gripped! I truly loved this book. There are so many other stories that got me hooked but being one of the newer ones it was easier and more fun for me. So many parts lasso me in because of the incredible description but though the older books are good it was so much better with this one being able to relate to all of the technical and mechanical stuff described.

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sean J. Stanley Baltimore, MD 08-20-13
    Sean J. Stanley Baltimore, MD 08-20-13 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Foghorn Leghorn Minstrel Show (still a good book)"

    Tom Wolfe is top notch. Here is a fascinating story of race, politics, human capital, and the struggle of life, both ordinary and extraordinary, told from myriad perspectives. Nearly thirty years after its initial publication, the themes explored by the book will strike familiar chords in the wake of Enron, Lehman Brothers, and Anthony Wiener. The privileged screwing over the poor, self-destructive narcissism, the perils of ambition- all are present and examined with Wolfe's trademark low-key wit.

    Ironic then that Joe Barrett's atrocious, arguably racist performance of the book will leave the listener scratching their head with questions related to the "post-racial" society in which it was recorded. White characters, including those with British, Bronx, and Yiddish accents are well within his wheelhouse and he performs these with aplomb. But when charged with rendering accurate portrayals of Blacks, Hispanics, and other minorities, Barrett reverts to a comical southern drawl somewhere between Foghorn Leghorn and Uncle Remus. If you doubt my assessment, simply listen to the first five minutes in which the put-upon Mayor of New York is lambasted by Harlem hecklers, rendered in a dialect that makes the Black Crows from "Dumbo" seem like Jane Elliott by comparison.

    I don't blame Barrett; he's a decent reader. His other work is better and this book was a real challenge. But the producers at Blackstone should be ashamed. It is unbelievable that this recording was produced in 2009 and released as-is. There are plenty of other performers (Dion Graham comes to mind) who could have delivered a better experience. Then again, considering that most audiobook listeners are White, affluent, and well-educated (including yours truly), it's no big surprise that the production values mirror the general indifference of the target demographic.

    But not all is lost. At first, I was annoyed that the performance was distracting me from the content of the novel. But then the failings of the recording began to mirror the issues raised in the novel and I came to enjoy, even relish the surreal, recursive experience. Marshall McLuhan was right- the medium is the message, and that message is Ouroboros the snake, choking on its own racist tail from high above the digital divide. Hooray for the future!

    9 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    E. R. Rothenberg 04-18-14
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Not great literature, but fantastic narration"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    It's a page-turner, or the audible counterpart.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    There are no positive characters. It's hard to really like any of them, yet that's part of the fun Sherman exhibits some nobility and some growth -- that's all we can expect.


    Which character – as performed by Joe Barrett – was your favorite?

    Joe Barrett was absolutely fantastic. He did all accents excellently. Really brought the book to life.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    Toward the end it looks as though the innocent will prevail -- but that's too much to hope for in Tom Wolfe's world where nobody is truly innocent. There's a Dostoevskian cast to this modern American novel.


    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer 12-06-13 Member Since 2012

    I work. I ski. I play. I write. I have a family. I garden. I coach. I volunteer. I sketch. I run. I read.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Engaging story... Fast paced"
    Would you consider the audio edition of The Bonfire of the Vanities to be better than the print version?

    I have not read the print version. I saw the movie after listening to the book. As usual, the book is better.


    What did you like best about this story?

    I like the intertwined lives of the characters.


    Which character – as performed by Joe Barrett – was your favorite?

    I like Sherman McCoy's criminal attorney.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    I have no extreme reaction. However, it is highly enjoyable.


    Any additional comments?

    I'm going to look up more Tom Wolfe books.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sandy Bartu 01-17-11
    Sandy Bartu 01-17-11 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Painful"

    Boring, repetitive and painful. I'm bummed I wasted a credit on this download... I've listened for nearly 5 hours and I just cannot waste anymore time on this one.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Linda Lou Cave Creek, AZ USA 04-02-10
    Linda Lou Cave Creek, AZ USA 04-02-10 Member Since 2007

    Obsessive reader, 6-10 books a week, chosen from Member reviews. Fact & fiction, subjects from the Tudors to Tookie, Harlem to Hiroshima, Huey Long to Huey Newton.  In-depth fair reviews - from front to BLACK!!! 

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A Good Book, Badly Narrated"

    If this were not Tom Wolfe, I'd only rated this "1 star". Unfortunately "0" is not an option. This is a clear case in which "the messenger" (a/k/a narrator) SHOULD be killed! After over 100 audiobooks, I can tell you that a narrator can make or break a book, even classics and best-sellers. I listened to actor Elliot Gould completely ruin a Raymond Chandler work while "The Help" and "I, Claudius" were totally enhanced by the excellent narration. Here, we have a great story with a lot of drama, comedy and sub-plots made unbearable by the cartoonish reading of it. It starts out with a scene in which African-American's sound like a stereotypical merging of "jive turkeys" and a bunch of minstrel coons. Guess what? More of us talk like just YOU do in real life than we are given credit for in audiobooks! We aren't all loud and crass as depicted in those horrid Tyler Perry films. At least in the hard copy of this story, the reader isn't forced to listen to some narrow-minded narrator's ridiculous idea of how HE thinks black people sound. While this narrator is very good at mastering a lot of different voices for the kazillion characters in this book, his overall reading is too light and silly for the subject matter. His "sound effects" (crying, sneezing, laughing, snorting, etc.) are way over-done and disturbing to the ear, especially one held captive by an iPod earbud. One wonders if the editors LISTEN to these books once they are recorded or just shove them onto the public. I couldn't finish this book - I had to throw in the towel about 1/3 of the way in. Author Tom Wolfe's masterpiece deserved so much more. I think I'll just READ the book again or watch the movie.

    16 of 22 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David Manchester, CT USA 05-14-14
    David Manchester, CT USA 05-14-14 Member Since 2014

    prog_dave

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Joe Barrett is Amazing"
    What made the experience of listening to The Bonfire of the Vanities the most enjoyable?

    Joe Barrett. The different characters were immediately recognizable by the way he portrayed them, and oh boy, did the voices match the personalities! I've listened to dozens of audiobooks and the only person who gave me a similar experience was Jim Dale with the Harry Potter series. Mr. Barrett brought out everything that's great about listening to books.


    Any additional comments?

    Slight spoiler alert! Although it's his earliest novel, it's the last one I've encountered and I had the same reaction to the ending of the book as I have to the previous three - I'm left wanting more (where's the real ending?). I guess that's probably what he's going for, but it prevents me from granting that fifth star (as if Mr. Wolfe cares).

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michelle Jones 04-03-14 Member Since 2010
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    "Great storytelling by both author and reader"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Yes


    What did you like best about this story?

    The stripped down and somewhat cruel look at human weaknesses


    What does Joe Barrett bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Amazing voices characterization


    If you could take any character from The Bonfire of the Vanities out to dinner, who would it be and why?

    Tom Killian. I bet he has the best stories.


    Any additional comments?

    I have never seen the movie, so my take on the novel wasn't influenced by pre-set characters from the big screen. Loved the story, and although I was sad to see it end, I truly enjoyed the journey.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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