Last week, when I began reading Bonfire of the Vanities, I thought to myself, gosh, I’ve never read a Tom Wolfe book. This seemed a glaring omission in my literary life seeing as Wolfe is something of a legendary figure, but when I looked into the matter more closely, Wolfe hasn’t written all that many novels. In fact, Bonfire was his first, published in 1987, and he didn’t write another until 1998’s A Man in Full. He’s written more since, but the bulk of his literary notoriety rested on the volumes he wrote as a scion of the New Journalism, most famously The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and The Right Stuff.
I’m reading Bonfire because I want to, and also because I’m interested in reading The Devil’s Candy, which is an account of how the much-anticipated film version of the book went totally off the rails and wound up as one of the most reviled and failed book adaptations ever put to screen. I’m a sucker for books about the ins and outs of moviemaking, given that I’m such a film junkie.
Today I knocked off a good chunk of Bonfire while sitting at the Red Cross with a needle in my arm, donating platelets. Wolfe’s writing is stylized and somewhat self-aggrandizing but it moves right along, and his characters are vivid. I’m not going to have trouble finishing this one.