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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.

Critic Reviews

"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 Ratings

Overall

  • 4.1 out of 5.0
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Performance

  • 4.4 out of 5.0
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Story

  • 4.2 out of 5.0
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  • Story

You turn into a cipher

Would you listen to The Bonfire of the Vanities again? Why?

Probably not, but I liked Joe Barrett's reading. It enlivened a book I read when it came out, thirty years ago. But I don't need to visit this story a third time.

Would you recommend The Bonfire of the Vanities to your friends? Why or why not?

For a period piece, a morality tale pre-Internet and social media, it remains a valuable dramatization of the pressure of what the 'flak catchers' Tom Wolfe profiled endured two decades later in the Bronx. This time, it's the legal profession, not the (other) bureaucrats.

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

Having enjoyed his reading of John Irving's "A Prayer for Owen Meany," Barrett here can show off his range of voices and accents as he has many more characters to work with. While the "haw haw haws" on Wolfe's page still grate to the ear here, the verve and pathos Joe Barrett brings to the protagonist, Sherman McCoy, deepens the novel and message.

If you could rename The Bonfire of the Vanities, what would you call it?

"Pin the WASP to the wall"--a phrase used by Sherman's persecutors

Any additional comments?

Ch, 22, a descent from the Dickensian satire into Dantean depths, is harrowing and very well told. One of the longer chapters, but the book generally moves along well. Despite dinner party chat in real time, and those Tom Wolfe elaborations of sartorial and decorative detail.

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One of the Greatest American Novels

First of all, forget the movie. The movie is a joke compared to the book. This book is quoted in Financial, Social History, New York, American, and Political literature because it is a awesome and compelling story. Wolfe is the best American novelist that I have read.

The narration is great too.

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A classic depiction of NYC in the 80's

Joe Barrett does a phenomenal job narrating the varied characters I didn't want to turn it off.

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painting pictures with words

Awesome story...but what happened with the girl? I think I'm more of a fan about the way it ended in the movie.

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Outstanding

This book caught me from the moment it started. The reader does an outstanding job and truly makes you feel like you're part of the story.

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Starts slow but keep reading!

I thought of not finishing this book because the start was slow and confusing. Each chapter at the beginning discussed a different character and I couldn't see the connection. But be patient, as it all comes together.

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Laughed out loud

You must forgive the book for it was written in a different time, a time when race was a bigger issue and religion and politics were more raw. It is interesting how this book can say things then that would not even be allowed socially now. OK yes I agree this is full of stereotypes and in some cases out and out prejudice. But there is a grain of truth in it all and it shows how both the media, justice and the special interest groups create unintended victims. It also pokes holes at the smug rich and shows really how fragile it all is. But most of all it is just a classic comedy of pile of humans building a ridiculously funny situation.

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not worth a day of my life

This was a very long story about characters that I still did not connect with, even after listening for 27 hours. Some content was interesting but most was maddening, so at least the story did provoke some emotion. Of course it was a well-written story, considering the author, and the performance was flawless. I'm just a bit sad that I chose to spend a day of my life listening to this instead of...pretty much anything else.

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An affair to remember!

A familiar tale buy solemn reminder of the risks of an affair. Really enjoyed the narrator!

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Beautiful and anti-climactic.

Tom Wolfe can write a damn sentence! And although this tale of hubris has a devastating bite, it is a book in search of an ending. The narrator is one of the best I've heard, switching from character to character with ease.

It's a very good listen, just don't expect a WOW ending.