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Encyclopedia > The Bonfire of the Vanities

The Bonfire of the Vanities is a 1987 novel by Tom Wolfe. The story, a satire about ambition, racism, and greed in 1980s New York City, centers on three main characters: the successful, arrogant, and very self-conscious bond trader Sherman McCoy, Jewish assistant D.A. Larry Kramer, and British expatriate journalist Peter Fallow. Fallow's career is revived when he is asked to cover the investigation of a young black man who had been the victim of a hit and run by a white driver (Sherman McCoy's mistress, who was driving Sherman's car with Sherman in the passenger seat). When Sherman is identified as the owner of the car from the hit and run attack, Fallow is ordered to prepare a smear campaign against Sherman McCoy, who becomes the most hated man in New York City as a result. However, a chance encounter with McCoy causes Fallow to have a change of heart and secretly attempts to help clear McCoy's name. To suggest a relevant news story for the main page, refer to the criteria then add your suggestion at the candidates page. ... Bonfire of the Vanities refers to an event on 7 February 1497 when followers of the priest Girolamo Savonarola collected and publicly burned thousands of objects in Florence, Italy, on the Shrove Tuesday festival. ... 1987 (MCMLXXXVII) was a common year starting on Thursday of the Gregorian calendar. ... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ... Satire is a literary technique of writing or art which exposes the follies of its subject (for example, individuals, organizations, or states) to ridicule, often as an intended means of provoking or preventing change. ... Nickname: The Big Apple Official website: City of New York Government Counties (Boroughs) Bronx (The Bronx) New York (Manhattan) Queens (Queens) Kings (Brooklyn) Richmond (Staten Island) Mayor Michael Bloomberg (R) Geographical characteristics Area Total 468. ...


The novel was a bestseller and a phenomenal success, even in comparison with Wolfe's other books. The title is a reference to a real life event, the Bonfire of the Vanities, which took place in 1497, in Florence, Italy, when the city was under the rule of the Dominican priest Girolamo Savonarola. The story told in the book and the movie is not a retelling of this historic event, it merely used the phrase as a fitting title. Bonfire of the Vanities refers to an event on 7 February 1497 when followers of the priest Girolamo Savonarola collected and publicly burned thousands of objects in Florence, Italy, on the Shrove Tuesday festival. ... 1497 was a common year starting on Friday (see link for calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ... Florence (Italian, Firenze) is a city in the center of Tuscany, in central Italy, on the Arno River, with a population of around 400,000, plus a suburban population in excess of 200,000. ... Girolamo Savonarola by Fra Bartolomeo, c. ...

Contents


Novel

The plot revolves around Sherman McCoy, whose life as a so-called "Master of The Universe" on Wall Street is destroyed when his mistress, Maria Ruskin, runs over a black youth (Henry Lamb) while driving his car. Abe Weiss, a self-absorbed Bronx District Attorney up for re-election, decides to convict McCoy by any means necessary (including obtaining false testimony from Sherman's mistress) so that he can use the conviction of McCoy to sway the black residents of New York City to re-elect him. In the middle of the whole mess is Peter Fallow, a washed-up, drunken British journalist for the tabloid City Light. Fallow is given the opportunity of a lifetime when he is hand-selected by the City Light's owner to write a series of articles about the investigation of Sherman McCoy, condemning McCoy as a monster for his alleged crime and calling for his arrest and conviction.


In exchange, Peter Fallow becomes the paper's star writer and his career is reborn. However, Fallow quickly becomes disillusioned as the paper's owner allies himself with a local religious and political leader (Reverend Bacon), who is preparing to have the mother of the now braindead victim of the hit and run sue the hospital her son is in for not giving him proper treatment that could have saved him. His disillusionment is complete when he has a chance encounter with McCoy outside the courthouse. When McCoy's mistress flees the country with another man in order to avoid having to admit to being the real driver, Sherman's private investigator discovers a recording of an incriminating conversation made by the landlord of Sherman and Ruskin's rendezvous. McCoy uses the tape (which he claims to have recorded himself) to have the initial charges against him dropped. The novel ends with a near riot outside the courtroom in which McCoy loses his head and almost knocks down down several protesters.


In a fictional New York Times article at the end of the book, we learn that Fallow has married a wealthy woman and Maria, the mistress, has escaped prosecution while Sherman McCoy awaits trial for manslaughter. The New York Times is an internationally known daily newspaper published in New York City and distributed in the United States and many other nations worldwide. ...


Style and content

Bonfire was Tom Wolfe's first novel. Wolfe's works before the novel were non-fiction, journalistic articles and books. His literary and journalistic styles have much in common; specifically a fascination with the seemingly fantastic stories and surprising details in American life. Like his previous writing, Bonfire fuses intrigue, plot, and sociological detail. To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ...


For example, the plot relies on class conflicts in mid-1980s New York, and the exploitation of those conflicts by politicians and others, personal conflicts, and culture of the Bronx Courthouse. In textured and lengthy chapters that could have been inspired by Zola, Wolfe tells the reader that the court typist is, in a strange reversal, the haughtiest, best-paid employee; while the judge, usually superior and powerful in other courts, must divide his time equally between intimidating the crowd, the defenders, and the district attorneys in an (often futile) attempt to keep order. Zola can refer to several things: Émile_Zola, the French novelist of the literary school of naturalism The alias of Bonginkosi Dlamini, a South African musician and actor The name of a ghetto in Soweto, South Africa Zola (Prix Jean Vigo 1955) a French movie by Jean Vidal Gianfranco Zola the...


Wolfe provides amusing asides on the gait of defendants, the clothing and peculiar accents of New Yorkers in every tier of society. Author Frank Conroy, in a New York Times Book Review article on the novel, said he found this attention to detail tiresome, especially the attention to accents. Wolfe responded that this attention to detail is essential and lamentably absent in most contemporary literature. In an article in Harper's monthly, Wolfe chastised modern authors for making excursions into mythic fantasy worlds in order to keep the novel fresh and interesting. It is his belief that journalistic research reveals a world more interesting and complex than anything a single author can dream up. Frank Conroy (January 15, 1936 - April 6, 2005) was an American author, born in New York, New York. ... The New York Times is an internationally known daily newspaper published in New York City and distributed in the United States and many other nations worldwide. ...


Wolfe did not intend his work to be a roman a clef; the characters in Bonfire are not fictionalized accounts of real-life figures. According to Wolfe, the characters are composites of many individuals and cultural observations. In the past, Wolfe has written long descriptions of real-life people, and not always favorably; he has said that if he wanted to profile (or lampoon) individuals, he would have done so from a non-fiction perspective since he has not shied away from doing so previously. A roman clef or roman (French for novel with a key) is a novel describing real-life events behind a fa ade of fiction. ...


Movie

The Bonfire of the Vanities

The Bonfire of the Vanities DVD
Directed by Brian De Palma
Produced by Brian De Palma
Written by Tom Wolfe
Starring Tom Hanks
Bruce Willis
Melanie Griffith
Music by Dave Grusin
Cinematography Vilmos Zsigmond
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Released December 21, 1990
Running time 125 min
Language English
IMDb profile

In 1990, a film adaptation directed by Brian De Palma was released and starred Tom Hanks as Sherman McCoy, Bruce Willis as Peter Fallow, an uncredited F. Murray Abraham as Abe Weiss, Melanie Griffith as Maria Ruskin, and Kim Cattrall as Judy McCoy, Sherman's wife. The film itself was plagued by controversy: originally John Cleese was offered the part of Peter Fallow by Brian De Palma, but turned down the role. When De Palma was unable to deliver Cleese as Fallow, the studio forced the director to cast Bruce Willis (who was coming off the success of Die Hard) as Fallow instead. Also, the studio took liberties with the source material, making Sherman McCoy more sympathetic and adding a subplot involving a minor character, Judge Leonard White. Originally white in the novel, the studio had Morgan Freeman cast in the part and dialogue added to have the now black character give the final denouncement towards the manipulative actions of the main characters. DVD cover scan from the movie Bonfire of the Vanities, personal scan, claiming fair use (does not detract from original work, scanned from legal copy, image is of sufficiently low resolution). ... Brian De Palma Brian De Palma (born September 11, 1940 in Newark, New Jersey) is an American film director. ... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ... Tom Hanks in February 2004 Thomas Jeffrey Hanks (born July 9, 1956) is a two-time Academy Award-winning American actor who starred in family friendly comedies, before achieving notable success as a dramatic actor. ... Bruce Willis in Virginia Walter Bruce Willis (born March 19, 1955) is an American actor and musician. ... Melanie Griffith at Cannes, 2000 Melanie Griffith (born August 9, 1957 in New York City) is an American film actress. ... David Grusin (born June 26, 1934 in Littleton, Colorado) is a jazz pianist, composer, and arranger whose works in films and TV have garnered him numerous awards. ... Vilmos Zsigmond (born on June 16, 1930, in Szeged, Hungary) is a cinematographer of motion pictures. ... The WB Shield used from 2003 to present day Warner Bros. ... December 21 is the 355th day of the year (356th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... This article is about the year. ... The English language is a West Germanic language that originates in England. ... This article is about the year. ... Brian De Palma Brian De Palma (born September 11, 1940 in Newark, New Jersey) is an American film director. ... Tom Hanks in February 2004 Thomas Jeffrey Hanks (born July 9, 1956) is a two-time Academy Award-winning American actor who starred in family friendly comedies, before achieving notable success as a dramatic actor. ... Bruce Willis in Virginia Walter Bruce Willis (born March 19, 1955) is an American actor and musician. ... F. Murray Abraham F. Murray Abraham (born Frederico Abrammo Monteglini on October 24, 1939 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) is an American actor. ... Melanie Griffith at Cannes, 2000 Melanie Griffith (born August 9, 1957 in New York City) is an American film actress. ... Kim Victoria Cattrall (born August 21, 1956) is an Anglo-Canadian actress. ... John Cleese as Q in Die Another Day. ... This article is about Die Hard, a 1988 action film starring Bruce Willis. ... Morgan Freeman in Batman Begins Morgan Freeman (born June 1, 1937, in Memphis, Tennessee) is an Academy Award-winning American actor and film director. ...


The film itself was a critical and commercial flop when it was first released. Many critics complained about the casting, especially the casting of Hanks and Willis as McCoy and Fallow. Others complained that despite opening with a well-executed tracking shot, the first two acts of the film were horribly paced and that too much time was spent making Sherman McCoy a likable character rather than advancing the plot of the story. The interiors parodied the home decorated by Robert Denning and Vincent Fourcade for Carolyne Roehm and Henry Kravis. Robert Denning (March 13, 1927- August 26, 2005) was an interior decorator whose lush interpretations of French Victorian decor became an emblem of corporate-raider tastes in the 1980s. ... Vincent Fourcade (February 27, 1934-December 23, 1992) Interior Designer, Style Rothschild partner of Robert Denning in Denning & Fourcade. ... Henry R. Kravis (born January 6, 1944 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, United States) is a business financier and investor. ...


The controversies surrounding the film would be detailed in a book called "The Devil's Candy", written by Julie Salamon.


External links

Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to:
The Bonfire of the Vanities

  Results from FactBites:
 
Bonfire of the Vanities - definition of Bonfire of the Vanities in Encyclopedia (132 words)
The Bonfire of the Vanities refers to an event in 1497 when followers of the priest Girolamo Savonarola collected and publicly burned thousands of objects in Florence, Italy.
The focus of this destruction was on objects considered sinful, including vanity items such as mirrors, cosmetics, and fine dresses.
Tom Wolfe's novel The Bonfire of the Vanities, published in 1987, makes reference to the original event, but is not a retelling of the story.
Bonfire of the Vanities - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (214 words)
This article is about the historical event; for the novel and film of the same name, see The Bonfire of the Vanities.
Bonfire of the Vanities refers to an event on 7 February 1497 when followers of the priest Girolamo Savonarola collected and publicly burned thousands of objects in Florence, Italy, on the Shrove Tuesday festival.
The focus of this destruction was on objects considered sinful, including vanity items such as mirrors, cosmetics, fine dresses, and even musical instruments.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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