Share good ideas and conversation.   Login, Join Us, or Take a Tour!
comment by historyarch

Bonfire of the Vanities has been described as the book that defined the 80s. You never know how literary reputation will develop. Some authors are very popular in their day and fade out. Some get more popular after they die. We'll see how Wolfe's work fares over time. I have been surprised to note that in obits like this, there was no mention of The Right Stuff or The Painted Word. He's already made a pretty big impact in coining a number of phrases that are in the popular vernacular. You may not even realize he created them.

This obit is pretty weak. The NY Times, NPR and The Atlantic wrote much better ones. Here's one:

tacocat  ·  5 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Totally forgot he wrote The Right Stuff. Obscure book they made into a bad Tom Hanks film is a really weird point of reference when you have that on your resume

kleinbl00  ·  5 days ago  ·  link  ·  

It wasn't obscure at the time. It was Twilight for east coast pseudointellectuals.

tacocat  ·  5 days ago  ·  link  ·  

They're writing headlines now. Story checks out.

historyarch  ·  5 days ago  ·  link  ·  

You can't judge the books by the quality of the movies. Wolfe was not involved in the film version.

tacocat  ·  5 days ago  ·  link  ·  

It was more a comment on what's popular. He's not exactly a household name and I don't understand why this is the frame of reference for him when he wrote a book more people could identify because it was a popular film and people are more familiar with movies

Side note. I saw on Twitter that Russ Meyer may have just randomly given him a credit for writing a movie to help sales. Naturally Tom Wolfe sued the fuck out of him

historyarch  ·  4 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Wolfe is not a household name like Tom Clancy but that doesn't mean his work was not influential. For example, Wolfe had a penchant for summing up American culture and/or cultural facets in succinct and memorable ways. He described the self-centered focus on self fulfillment of the 70s as the "Me Decade." He also created the understanding of "good ol' boy" we have today in an article he wrote on NASCAR in the early 70s. There are many others. Some of the phrases he coined have become so ingrained, you aren't even aware of it. I read somewhere that Wolfe is quoted 150 times in the Oxford English Dictionary.

kleinbl00  ·  5 days ago  ·  link  ·  

As far as I'm concerned, anyone making that argument is a myopic, self-centered Manhattanite.

tacocat  ·  5 days ago  ·  link  ·  

That it defined a decade? Seems like it embodied it

kleinbl00  ·  5 days ago  ·  link  ·  

It may have embodied a few zip codes. Most of us had no experience whatsoever with loaning private jets to opera singers or taking out million dollar loans so our wives could get our condos in Architectural Digest.

If you're an angelino, Less Than Zero is closer to your experience. If you're from neither city, the books that defined the 80s were written by Tom Clancy or Danielle Steele or Stephen King, not Tom Wolfe or Brett Ellis.

goobster  ·  4 days ago  ·  link  ·  

And if you are a Seattleite, then Tom Robbins pretty much nailed it.

tacocat  ·  5 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I was seven in 1990 but the decade has a reputation. Because I was seven in 1990 what do I really know? I can see the argument that Bruce Springsteen songs embody the decade better. That gets overshadowed in my mind by the reputation for yuppie greed

kleinbl00  ·  5 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Name the book that defines the 90s. 70s. 60s. 50s. I mean, even if you go back a hundred years you're going to fight between Gatsby and Grapes of Wrath.

O e of the problems I have with Bonfire of the Vanities is it's advertised as satire, but it’s a deeply aspirational book. There's a very clear desire to be Sherman McCoy in it, only without being an insensitive dick. And fucking hell it hasn't aged well. There's a lot of deeply racist shit in it.

Bonfire of the Vanities is the book that defines the assholes that put Rudy Giuliani in power, that destroyed the economy in 2007. It is their anthem. And the fact that the book rewards their basest instincts and prejudices is reason enough to stop celebrating it.

tacocat  ·  5 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I'm very curious now by the racism after just being satisfied by the yuppies who liked it wrote the headlines answer to my original question

kleinbl00  ·  5 days ago  ·  link  ·  

The bad guys are all black or jewish caricatures (shylock bad) while the good guys are all either Irish or midwesterners. The basic drive of the book is "New York is being destroyed by a shitty caricature of Al Sharpton and his negro militia while Ed Koch watches the world burn."

tacocat  ·  4 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I'm sorry you went through that

As a person with direct Chicago ties but who never actually lived I don't think they get enough credit for being not completely terrible about their own sense of self importance as a city. Reminds me of an AA joke about wanting credit for not committing one crime or another

tacocat  ·  5 days ago  ·  link  ·  

The idea Sure doesn't hurt to explain Giuliani and stop and frisk