Bonfire of Tom Wolfe’s Vanities

With Tom Wolfe’s passing at 87, the Hippie years are officially over.

Made famous after his The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test became the book of the 60s counter-culture, Wolfe self-proclaimed himself as one of the authors of the New Journalism movement.  His non-fiction prowess continued through the 1970s, capping off the decade with the publication of The Right Stuff in 1979.

His first novel, The Bonfire of the Vanities (1987), became to the 1980s what Electric Kool-Aid was to the 60s and 70s. In a decade filled with excess, ambition and greed, Wolfe’s character Sherman McCoy stands as an example of how hard the rich, powerful and mighty can fall.  Definitely Tom Wolfe’s fictional masterpiece, Bonfire was not only a very topical story for the late 1980s/early 1990s mentality but also a sentimental book in my life.

The Bonfire of the Vanities was the first “adult” fiction book I read. I was a Sophomore in high school and I bought a paperback copy after seeing a display at Crown Books. I loved Bruce Willis (from the Moonlighting years) and I had read that he was going to be in the movie version of this book. So, I made it my goal to read it, even though it was most definitely the longest book I would ever read at that point (before this, I was mostly into teen series fiction).  After loving this novel, my passion for reading something other than Sweet Valley High books were ignited.

I have always wanted to re-read it to see if I would still feel the same about it, though I’m somewhat afraid it would lose some luster to me. I prefer to remember this novel and its main character Sherman McCoy as I did in 1989.

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