A very enjoyable novel
by Tom Wolfe
, published in 1998
by Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Minor spoiler in last paragraph
Set in Atlanta in the South at present time, the book deals with conflicts of old Southern values and modern Southern
values. It's also about the absurd economical differences in America today,
and how what is pocket money for one man, can be a matter of life and death
for another man. It's part satire, part tragedy and Wolfe uses the 700+ pages to to weave several intertwining stories about the dubious business ethics, racial segregation, economical segregation and the single man's futile struggle against the society.
The main character is Atlanta businessman Charlie Croker on the verge of a
bankruptcy. We follow his desperate attempts to succumb bankers, friends and fellow businessmen to help him. A
parallel story deals with today's version of what Croker once was; a young football star at Georgia Tech. Fareek "the Canon" Fanon is accused of raping the daughter of the most prominent businessman of Atlanta and also friend of Charlie. Several other stories deal with the lives of more peripheral persons, whose lives in one way or another have been affected by Charlie Croker on his way to the top.
The portrait of Charlie Croker is
a fantastic one. After having read the book, you really feel like you know
him intimately, even though you'll probably won't like him. The other characters are also
portrayed in an intelligent and elaborate way, making them
real and complex, not at all stereotypes. Of course, most of the characters are demographical stereotypes, but Tom Wolfe manages to make them interesting. This and the intricate plot
are the highlights of the book. Of course, Tom Wolfe really likes to lose himself in details and really rub in your face how much research he put into the
book. But that also makes the frame for Wolfe's painting thicker and
Spoiler ----> Anyhow, it's a very entertaining book, that will keep you busy for weeks and weeks.
You'll have the bricklike book lying around your home, just calling out to you..
"Read me more...just a chapter..." Sometimes painful, sometimes funny and always
interesting and intriguing. On the low side, the ending is typically Tom Wolfe; not so good and a lot of loose ends. It's as if he realize that he never will wrap it up the way he
indented, and just stops writing mid-chapter, saving it somewhat with an epilogue.
Luckily, it doesn't spoil the book since it has so many advantages that
easily makes up for the weak ending.