November, 2018: Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe

(Book #103) I am late late late in posting this one, but by the time I finished putting up the website in October, I was behind on everything else. So, after 3 months hiatus, I’m back.

Linda hosted our discussion of Bonfire of the Vanities. I would have been tempted to serve box lunches as though we were all jurors on the case but Linda went for the much more delicious idea of a meal any businessman would be happy to put on his expense account.


An exclusive for BookClub101 by Peter Fallow and Tess Summerfest                                                                                                                            Eight women were spotted dining at Leicester’s last night, a bank exec, an architect, a literary agent, an artist, the usual faces. Leicester’s was packed and roaring and all at table were feeling socially successful, recognized-by-the-owner sort of thing. They ordered a bottle of wine, drank that and said why didn’t they get another. They ordered another, drank that and ordered another, and then another. Though they ignored the first course cheese plate when first served, they soon found the three delectable cheeses and descended upon the plate in a plague of locusts fashion. The main course came — pink medallions of tenderloin, scalloped potatoes that blurred the line between scalloped and au gratin and lovely green spears of asparagus. They oohed and aahed with great culinary pleasure and then began to gossip about the recent case involving the white driver of a Mercedes who hit a young black man and drove from the scene of the accident failing to make any report. The literary agent said she read of such a case many years ago and hadn’t enough time to go all over it again. Someone said Master of the Universe in a mocking tone and someone else wondered who first said “Those who the Gods would destroy, they would first make proud.” One of the diners expressed the story had gone on too long and felt parts of it could have been left out of the telling. Someone else at table likened the story to the fifteenth century Bonfire of the Vanities, which took place in Florence, Italy, when the city was under the rule of the Dominican priest Girolamo Savonarola. The priest ordered the burning of objects that church authorities considered sinful, such as cosmetics, mirrors, books and art. Clearly all of the Mercedes driver’s vanities were set aflame as he sat on his suit jacket in the holding cell at central booking and endured cockroaches, mice and the threats of fellow prisoners. Before dessert arrived, the women had left the story behind and were discussing the use of pumpkin pie as a face cream. The dessert was a delicious gluten free chocolate cake served with a choice of pistachio or vanilla bean gelato. Many topics came and went but the big news story will be in tomorrow’s issue in the continuing story of modern justice.

This reader gave it four stars on Goodreads with this review:
This book is beautifully crafted and the characterizations are quite brilliant — as an example, in just one chapter you can love the clever depiction of Lopwitz and while hating the man he is! I was very close to giving it a five star rating, but I couldn’t “love” it, because (SPOILER ALERT) I just couldn’t abide Maria skating free. Sure, the story is about Sherman and how this Master of the Universe set himself up for the fall, but, at least for this reader, he had a stronger moral code than Maria.