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February 6, 2009

A Man in Full

Tom Wolfe – ISBN – 9780553381337

Wolfe (Bonfire of the Vanities; The Right Stuff) recently wrote what “critics” have deemed his masterpiece. That’s saying quite a bit, in that much of his work would so qualify. But it is indeed a beautifully written, powerful novel with a complex plot, which in a peculiar way is also humorous.

The multifaceted plot basically explores men; who they are, what they do, how they succeed and how they fail; their strengths and weaknesses. White and Black politicians, lawyers, business moguls, prime athletes and effete snobs are all welcome to a plot based in Atlanta, but involving characters from as far away as California; all brought together ingeniously by Wolfe, into the context of his aims. Every permutation of maleness is included amongst the characters: suave/slimy, brilliant/dull, naive/corrupt, sensitive/indifferent, tactful/thoughtless.

Cap’m Charlie Crocker is his “main man;” a flabby, overweight, over 60, former college football mega-star who has made it big in real estate development in Atlanta. He’s a boorish back-country “good-old-boy” who owns a magnificent home (having deeded millions of dollars and his first home to the wife he dumped for his trophy bride), a plantation—named Turp’m’tine, with a full staff of black folk--used as a hunting reserve, a national frozen food company, a pricey Gulfstream jet. His “baby,” however, is his namesake Crocker Center on the outskirts of town, which he conceived as becoming the premier business center of Greater Atlanta. Charlie has everything an aspirant to splendor might want . . . but his showpiece is over-built, over budget, over-extended, under-occupied, financed with a personal pledge of several hundred million of his own money. . . . and it is bankrupting him.

The book offers insights into people you’ve never known; in places you’ve never been, doing things of which you’d rather not be aware. Yet it is a gigantic slice of life in the fast lane and a colorful description of the ups and downs of power as it explores the panoply of human behavior in an environment where “your honor” is the things you own; where everything, and nothing, matters except $$$. He puts you “there,” be it in a warehouse, a conference room, at a glitzy museum fund raiser, the country club, or hunting at Turp’m’tine with the boys—even, for a spell, in prison. He manages to include a brief essay on the sick rationale of the 60’s hippies in their Haight-Asbury holes.

There’s testosterone a-plenty, chutzpah by the ton, weakness, lust, power, success, intimidation, failure, pomp, humility, even an exploration of the philosophy of the stoic, Epictetus.

Wow. “Ever-thin-ya-cuud-ass-fer, don-cha-no?” Good read. Fun analytic, declarative and informative at the same time.

Posted by respeto at February 6, 2009 3:11 PM