Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Tom Wolfe - A Man in Full

The setting is Atlanta, Georgia — a racially mixed, late-century boomtown full of fresh wealth and wily politicians. The protagonist is Charles Croker, once a college football star, now a late-middle-aged Atlanta conglomerate king whose outsize ego has at last hit up against reality. Charlie has a 29,000 acre quail-shooting plantation, a young and demanding second wife, and a half-empty office complex with a staggering load of debt.
Meanwhile, Conrad Hensley, idealistic young father of two, is laid off from his job at the Croker Global Foods warehouse near Oakland and finds himself spiraling into the lower depths of the American legal system.
And back in Atlanta, when star Georgia Tech running back Fareek “the Canon” Fanon, a homegrown product of the city’s slums, is accused of date-raping the daughter of a pillar of the white establishment, upscale black lawyer Roger White II is asked to represent Fanon and help keep the city’s delicate racial balance from blowing sky-high.
Networks of illegal Asian immigrants crisscrossing the continent, daily life behind bars, shady real estate syndicates — Wolfe shows us contemporary America with all the verve, wit, and insight that have made him our most admired novelist. Charlie Croker’s deliverance from his tribulations provides an unforgettable denouement to the most widely awaited, hilarious and telling novel America has seen in ages — Tom Wolfe’s most outstanding achievement to date.

Comment: I got this book with a huge discount at a book fair many years ago. I thought it would be quite a bargain since the book has more than 700 pages and I was vaguely aware it was by the same author of Bonfire of Vanities (which I also have, yet unread), so my curiosity was picked. In the meantime, other genres and books gt on my radar, I dedicated myself to romances and then paranormals and this book, along many others, was left behind until now, when I finally decided to read it.

This is the story of Charlie Croker, a self made man who went from poor origins to success in sports to an empire of wealth and influence in Atlanta. Charlie is in his 60s now and has lived a life at his own pace, but since most of it was surrounded by money and all it could buy, it's no wonder now that his businesses seem to have gone wrong, he can't accept he might have to sell or say goodbye to so many of the things he sees as an exhibit of his conquests. Following this, he makes a decision which will affect the lives an livelihood of others, including an employee of one of his factories and their paths will meet at some point with surprising results...

It was quite a task, to go through all the pages in this book. The beginning was fine, I was trying to connect with Charlie and see if he would be a character I'd root for or one I'd want to see punished - I mean, it had to go one of these ways, right? - but I confess I was somewhat dumbfounded as the chapters piled up. It wasn't the focus on different characters nor the obvious racial content which I suppose was quite a critique of how society worked (and works still). In fact, there were several passages/ideas I would have wanted to see developed further.

Charlie seemed like a man without purpose. At first he is presented as someone having it all, managing everything and getting pretty much everything he wanted, even if some things seemed a little...silly. I can imagine the author writing this and smiling to himself while putting some scenes on the page.I was in doubt as how to see him, but there was a goal with story for certain, although in my opinion the author didn't quite pace out the plot well and what caused so much worry in Charlie, the vision he had and the one he ends up having by the end of the book didn't evolve as smoothly as I think it could.

Between this and the somewhat questionable events as the book moved along, I wondered where the author was going with this, I felt lost several times for I lost track of what was really important in this story. Obviously the biggest issue for me in this book is this: there are countless pointless descriptions of everything and more which tells us nothing that matters! Why so much detail on things that don't have any impact in the big scheme of things? I can only imagine the author wanted to be as lavish and wasteful as he implied Charlie's lifestyle was (and of so many men like him out there)!

Not even half way through I I was lost, I was already turning the pages, skimming to see where was content that interested, that could be important for the plot but there is so much going on that I confess even this was a difficult task. Apparently, the author wanted a contrast between the notion of people having too much and how that doesn't really bring peace of mind and happiness. There is an interesting contrast with Stoicism, which claims behaving good and fairly will help one have virtue, the best way to get to a state of calm and acceptance. I mean.... was this an obvious element from the start? Not really, by the time this felt like something intended by the author I was no longer fascinated with the plot.

That's why, when the end comes it was interesting but I thought to myself "too little too late" because after so many pages lost to unnecessary descriptions and situations, the real content was lost among all that. The end felt rushed, if one thinks about the scale of how information was given on the subject and how it was played out by the characters.

All in all, this wasn't too bad if I think about the plot and the ideas behind it but I struggled with the writing style, I lost interest at some point and was only curious to see what would happen to Charlie in the end. I've read some reviews by other readers after finishing and I had a better time doing that and following the logic of those reviewers than I did reading the actual book, so... that is something to think about...
Grade: 4/10

No comments:

Post a Comment