The Bonfire of the Vanities is, in my opinion, above all else, the story of misunderstanding. Every character is isolated in his own community , cultivating a multitude of prejudices about everybody else. McCoy automatically assumed that Henry and his friend were about to attack him because they were black. Kramer automatically assumed that McCoy’s life had been easy until that fatal day. We, readers, know that the truth is a little more complicated than that but our characters keep those clichés with them and use them to build their opinions about the people they meet.
Wolfe also treats the motif of the personal quest for recognition, success, approval. All our characters, Kramer, Weiss, McCoy, Fallow want to be recognized by their peers. They want to be seen as the best at what they do. They’re desperately looking for the approbation that comes with fame. This is probably why everything goes so tragically wrong. From the very beginning, all the elements of an absurd tragedy are in place.
After reading this book, I always feel a little sad…mostly because when I look at the world around me, I see that the problems Wolfe was talking about 20 years ago still make it to the news.
Anyway, in French or in its original language (the twisted English!), The Bonfire of the Vanities is still on my Top 5 list…
It definitely deserves a 10/10
Next time we’ll be talking about another Oh so joyful book that I started this morning…Sophie’s Choice by William Styron!