November 9, 2014

Book: A Man in Full by Tom Wolfe

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 1:01 am

imagesInteresting book from the author of such books as The Bonfire of the Vanities, already reviewed earlier. There are some similarities between the two books but they are completely different stories. Both books talk about men who are powerful at the height of their glory and how they are brought down bit by bit by circumstances.

This book is about Charlie Croker, rich, 60, with young wife Serena and burly, very masculine, very controlling – a bull in a china shop kind of personality. He has peremptorily divorced his first wife who had stood by him while he made his millions and has gone for a younger model.

At the start of the book, we meet him drowning in a bad investment due to an overreach due to hubris in his construction industry. He hopes to rope in Inman the wealthy pharma owner and takes him quail hunting. Irritated that his wife is pally with Elizabeth the teenage daughter of Inman and not his wife and two other couples. She did not even see him win his bet on shooting only male quails.

Roger Too White, a black lawyer who is successful enough to own a Lexus in Atlanta, is going through a Freaknic, black people’s beatnik or woodstock equivalent. He gets caught up in the frenzy and almost misses his appointment.

In the meanwhile, Charlie is humiliated by the interrogator of Plannersbanc royally as he owes them several million dollars in dues. The agent who humiliated him is Raymond Peepgas, who is otherwide just a clerk doing his work, but uses power to humiliate the big and the mighty, who come to him to negotiate. Harry Zale is the Artist who humiliates people. He enjoys creating ‘saddlebags’ (the sweat stains under the armpits in the shirts) for rich people by playing hardball.

In the meanwhile, Charlie ‘reinstates’ his honour by catching a poisonous snake with bare hands. Charlie tries to impress the Jew behind the gyms to take a large rental in his building – Herb Richman. And to the shock and dismay of the guests, shows them how a stud stallion is made to perform against reluctant female horses brought in by other owners.  Herb is liberal, Jewish, and cannot stand it.

In a parallel story, Conrad dreams of an independent life, especially after marrying the daughter of a well to do girl for love against the wishes of her parents. He works in the freezer section and saves the life of Kenny a weird friend and gets fired for ruining the supplies.

Mayor Wes Jordan is the friend of Roger Too White. Roger Too Whites appointment was to meet a manager, who wants to hire him to defend his pop singer client in a case for rape charges against him. He is alleged to have date raped the daughter of Inman Armhostler, who is a big gun in Atlanta. Wes has his own axe to grind in this matter. The pop singer is barely civil to anyone and is a colossal asshole who throws his weight around, not just unrepentant but also not even aware of the consequences if he loses the case.

Great descriptions of the racial history of Atlanta. If Charlie Croker can stand to recommend the athlete against Inmon’s daughter, we have a case – says the mayor.

Conrad gets his car impounded after an unsuccessful interview and cannot get his car out. His wife will kill him now for sure. Then when his plane is impounded, he manages to sabotage it so it cannot be moved.

Conrad ends up in jail, since his car was impounded and in a frenzy he attacked the keeper of the impound yard. He refuses to admit guilt on principle and gets thrown in jail as a felon. The jail, he witnesses an insubordination and tasered for his pains. And jail life described in detail. Inman confides in Charlie Crocker

Conrad ends up in jail on principle and meets the gangs there: Five-O, the African American gang, the blond boy molested openly. When Conrad goes to defend him, he becomes the target but an earthquake saves him and let him escape to Kenni and Mai.

Ray Peepglass befriends Martha, Crocker’s ex wife.  Now he has Serena ‘a boy with breasts’ according to Martha.

Peepglass tries to make money by setting up a front company in the Caribbean and also woos Martha Croacker. Charlie is persuaged by Roger Too White to go see Fareek and if he does support Fareek, his financial troubles ‘will disappear’. Struggling with loyalty to his friend Inman, Charlie decided to just go see Fareek. And he agrees to support Fareek just to get out of his financial troubles as a return favour.

Conrad ends up in Florida and gets work at minimum wage taking care of an elderly couple.

He rescues them from a bully and becomes a ‘favourite employee’ and then gets assigned to Crocker. Crocker learns about Stoics and Zeus from Conrad.

In the end what he decides to do is interesting and the prologue fully explains what happens to major characters. A neat book with Roger Too White appearing at the beginning of the whole saga and appearing at the end too.

It deserves a 7/10


  • – Krishna




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