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A Man in Full by Tom Wolfe

I read A Man in Full by Tom Wolfe.  I read on Wikipedia that John Updike criticized it as being entertainment and not literature. 

Tom Wolfe also wrote The Bonfire of the Vanities, but as far as I know that wasn't criticized for being entertainment.  There are many similarities between the two novels.  They are both a bout a rich man who loses his fortune.  They both deal with racial issues.  And in each novel Wolfe writes a character who has big back muscles, or latissimus dorsi. 

Wolfe has written that his goal in writing fiction is to document contemporary society in the tradition of John Steinbeck, Charles Dickens and Emile Zola.  I haven't read any Zola, and have only read the first part of A Tale of Two Cities, but I have read Steinbeck and loved it, especially East of Eden. Steinbeck could have kept writing that book, I think, forever.  He could bring characters to life, and all they would need would be the writer's hand.   Wolfe tries to do the same, and I think he succeeds, however, for some reason, there is a big difference between Steinbeck and Wolfe in their writing.  For example, Wolfe's characters are sometimes stereotyped or cardboard.

The Bonfire of the Vanities and A Man in Full both dealt with race issues, discrepancies in wealth and criminals.  I liked both of these novels but did not love them.  It's kind of like Wolfe is holding back when he writes.  He's very smart and good at describing things, and researches his books thoroughly, but I think he is either lacking heart or takes his characters too seriously.  So seriously, or too close to him, that he denies them a real life.  Steinbeck is better.

1 comment:

Karin Mitchell said...

There are rules for acid:
1. Fire burns.
2. Water drowns.
3. You can't fly.
4. Cars are real.

I never did acid because it's stored in your spinal fluid and never leaves your system and that freaks me out.
I was always annoyed by writers or artists who claimed that drugs were the path to art. I think that's a cheat. Creativity and influence are the path to art (and probably some luck and genetics.)