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am 20. Juli 2000
An ambitious undertaking, Tom Wolfe's novel starts by introducing several, very distinct characters, and expertly weaving their stories together. The complex storyline keeps you guessing, blending suspense and humor. Wolfe has populated a world with memorable characters (Cap'm Charlie Croker & his trophy wife, Serena, Conrad, Roger Too White, Ray Peepgass and so many others), that will live on in the reader's memory. Turpmtine Plantation feels like a very real place. Then, with the suddenness of a car wreck, the story lurches to an awkward and disappointing conclusion. It's a crying shame that Wolfe tries to wrap up an over 700-page novel in one chapter using a two-way Q&A conversation. A tremendous let-down...
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am 20. Juli 2000
What an accomplishment! To write a story that ties together: Charles Croker, a 60 y.o. Atlanta real estate broker who is in danger of losing his billion dollar fortune; Conrad Hensley, an idealistic, laid-off follower of the Stoic, Epicetus; Fareek Fanon, an Afro-American college football star alleged to have raped the daughter of Iman Armholster, a leader of the white community; and Roger Too White an Afro-American lawyer on the rise. Throw in a variety of other uniquely described stereotypical characters and you have the ingedients for a masterpiece. Read with enthusiasm and slow enough to savor the descriptions of people, places, things and situations, this book ranks right up there with the best. The teachings of Epicetus and the feelings of Charlie, who at 60 questions the meaning of his life were particularly relevant and powerful. I will often refer back to this story and read a page or two just to get a chuckle and see the beauty of the English language in the hands of a brilliant wordsmith. Postscript: If you have the opportunity to listen to the audio tape you won't be disappointed. Ralph Ogden Stiers does a brilliant job of capturing the essence of each character.
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am 21. Januar 2000
Charlie Croker is one pig-headed cracker from the old-South. Charlie raises horses, fearlessly handles snakes, shoots quail, runs his own fleet of jets, is married to a younger, beautiful women, and is in general a good ole boy -- even owns an honest ta gawd plantation where all the helpin' folk are black.
Charlie is also a man in prime need of a humbling experience. Charlie is a real estate developer and his most serious problems develop as a result of a wide-body ego coupled with backward planning -- desire it, act on it, followed by, plan for it, pay for it. Croker becomes overextended on a real estate deal for a development that is largely a monument to himself, even named it The Croker Concourse. This leads to a "workout session" at Planners Bank, where Charlie is given a most unpleasant reception. Wolfe describes the scene in vintage style, casting a rheumy eye on corporate America and its ugly military efficiency and total bottom line orientation. It is at this point where you will realize that you have come to like Charlie Croker, that you are pulling for this humus head from south of the gnat line, that Croker, raw and crude as he is, contains a genuine spirit and optimism that has been bleached out of the rest of us.
Politics and money drive the entire story. Wolfe shows how saturated Americans are with these two Noble Truths. (Even Conrad-the-stoic's actions, the spiritual soul of this 787 page journey, were brought about by the frustrations of not being an economically viable member of society.) A Man in Full is a snort fest, (I read this while bus commuting and couldn't contain my laughter, despite the worried stares) Wolfe's satire is as biting as a side ache, unfortunately, the truth running beneath the humor is a sobering one. This is the kind of book our grand kids will read and when they finish it, they will close the book and exclaim, "My god, were you people ever messed up!"
I especially liked the chapters dealing with Atlanta's black mayor. He is like an inverted Oreo, posing publicly as white for the "money" constituents from the wealthy white neighborhoods, and posing privately as black for the less economically powerful, but more numerous black voters. The tribal art collection ebbs and flows through his office in accordance with the political tide!
Wolfe brings the mayor, Croker and Planners Bank together on an issue that threatens to explode the entire city in racial tension. Fareek Fanon, a black football star is accused of raping a white woman from one of Atlanta's most influential families. If Croker, (a former football great) speaks out on Fareek's behalf, maybe the mayor can help him with all his debts to Planners Bank? And maybe someone high up in Planners Bank will be owed a valuable gift in return for forgiving Crokers debt? And if the mayor quells the coming riots, maybe he will reclaim the straying voters needed for his reelection? Everyone is itching and planning for the scratch. A simple premise, but greed and political chess playing enter the equation, creating a centrifugal force that sucks some characters into the melee and spins others off into ruin.
Ruthless and wicked writing from a man who portrays American society with a magnifying glass held over the warts and moles.
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am 23. Juni 2000
A Man in Full was the first Tom Wolfe novel I've every read, I'm embarassed to admit. He is obviously an extremely important American author. I see him as a sort of an urbane Steinbeck, very American, at least in this book. The book is said to be a Southern piece, but I think it has too wide a scope to fulfill that mission.

It's one of those books that keeps coming back in your memory. So many vivid scenes with outrageous characters. It's a book of ideas. Especially, the notion of two men from different life backgrounds, Charlie Croker the tycoon realestate broker and Conrad Hensley the down and out blue collar man, coming together over an obscure tome of ancient philosophy.

I believe Tom Wolfe expressed some concern in an interview that readers would not find sympathy for Charlie Croker. He needn't have feared that, in my mind. I thought Croker rather heroic, despite his foibles and excesses.

The range of Wolfe is amazing, from Stienbeckian views of the down and out family man to the power brokers of eastern society and business establishment, his charcters are well drawn and poignant.

This is a substatial novel, a book of substance. Definitely a must for your reading list.
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am 4. Juli 2000
Having been living in Asia for the past year in a half, imagine my delight at finding out one of my literary heroes, Tom Wolfe, had another NY Times bestseller underway. Scrambling for a month or so I located a copy in Hong Kong and nestled that oh, so appreciably hefty volume happily in my hands. Living abroad one become ravenous to read one's native language and, in the past, who but Wolfe has handled it so nimbly and amusingly? But then imagine my disappointment where upon halfway through the book (after a brillant start), I realized that I was holding a botched effort. Wasn't there anyone with enough clout at the publishing house to recommended that Dapper Tom prune this meandering Southern vine? I nearly quit on the book twice, thrice and then finished it, in low spirits, very disappointed. There's an old movie axiom - discounting the role of the narrator in cinema - which says its better to show something than be told about it. After 700 plus pages, the fate of the characters are wrapped up in conversation - between two of the book's minor and most uninvolving characters. Terrible idea. It worked as news clippings in "The Bonfire of the Vanities," but here it is anquishing. On a bright note, the book's central character of multimillionaire real estate developer Charlie Crocker - "the man in full" - is wonderful. But Wolfe abandons him far too frequently to develop his secondary characters and kills any compelling narative the book might have had. Even more painfully, this "sprawling comic effort" - or whatever was the gist of the review The NY Times chose to on bestow - is, simply not very funny. Not even in the way the non-fiction "The Right Stuff" was. I suppose I should mention I have read all of Tom Wolfes' books (and even found "From Bauhaus To Our House" more amusing) and loved them all deeply - except this one. What a pity. What a disappointment. Especially so far away from home.
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am 26. Mai 2000
This book is about life, and it is not the story (which is very gripping indeed) but the deep development of characters what it counts. Throughout a very detailed physical, satirical and, psychological observation of the ambitions and careers of members of the different social rungs of the Atlanta and America social ladder, Wolfe weaves a story which never falters from beginning to end and maintains the same level of writing style and quality in every chapter. All the characters, stereotyped ones, move interrelated because the actions of some of them bring big misfortunes to the life of others, All share problems in common, that is, making a living, maintaining an image and keeping their high living standards and everyone of them seem to say". Look, I have a situation here..."and are shown enduring their existence in relation to the events that come to their lives. The magic lies in the way the reader is introduced to the life of the character, because one reads and wish to make judgments about everything unexpected that happens, kind of (What I would do in this case ? What if..?) All characters receive equal treatment under the pen of the author, the top tycoon, the frustrated professional and the humblest worker. Pain and disappointment are part of life for all of them and no matter the money and prestige they have or don't have, they must confront and solve complex problems entailing difficult decisions sometimes under big pressure as tough they were hanging on the edge of a cliff. I would have changed the title of this book for another one ".Life in full.......".because some passages provide useful examples and others remarkable observations applying to everyday life ranging from the most important circumstances to the less significant ones. Highly recommendable for a gift to oneself and a dear friend
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am 26. Mai 2000
This book is about life, and it is not the story (which is very gripping indeed) but the deep development of characters what it counts. Throughout a very detailed physical, satirical and, psychological observation of the ambitions and careers of members of the different social rungs of the Atlanta and America social ladder, Wolfe weaves a story which never falters from beginning to end and maintains the same level of writing style and quality in every chapter. All the characters, stereotyped ones, move interrelated because the actions of some of them bring big misfortunes to the life of others, All share problems in common, that is, making a living, maintaining an image and keeping their high living standards and everyone of them seem to say". Look, I have a situation here..."and are shown enduring their existence in relation to the events that come to their lives. The magic lies in the way the reader is introduced to the life of the character, because one reads and wish to make judgments about everything unexpected that happens, kind of (What I would do in this case ? What if..?) All characters receive equal treatment under the pen of the author, the top tycoon, the frustrated professional and the humblest worker. Pain and disappointment are part of life for all of them and no matter the money and prestige they have or don't have, they must confront and solve complex problems entailing difficult decisions sometimes under big pressure as tough they were hanging on the edge of a cliff. I would have changed the title of this book for another one ".Life in full.......".because some passages provide useful examples and others remarkable observations applying to everyday life ranging from the most important circumstances to the less significant ones. Highly recommendable for a gift to oneself and a dear friend
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am 13. März 2000
The New and Old South collide in the person of Charlie Crocker, the main character of Tom Wolfe's novel, A Man in Full. In Crocker (one vowel shy of "cracker") live all the Old South redneck stereotypes -- college football hero, real estate tycoon, philanderer, bigot and lord of a plantation "below the gnat line" in south Georgia. Foolish real estate loans have left his empire under financial siege when politicians recruit him to help defuse a ticking racial timebomb. Rumors accuse Fareek "the Cannon" Fanon, a black football star at Georgia Tech, of date-raping a white debutante. A few words in support of Fanon, a lawyer assures him, will make Crocker's financial troubles disappear. At the same time, the 60-year-old remnants of his once bull-like body begin to betray mortality. Crocker is torn between loyalty to the girl's father, a fellow member of Atlanta's business elite, and the temptation of an easy escape from bankruptcy and social ruin. We empathize with and cringe at Crocker during his physical and financial descent.
Wolfe is a skilled satirist. When he takes aim at modern phenomena -- everything from the racial and geographic dichotomy of Atlanta to the aerobics fitness craze -- his observations are right on target. Wolfe on second marriages: "Your first wife married you for better or for worse. Your second wife, particularly if you were sixty and she was a twenty-eight-year-old number like Serena -- why kid yourself? -- she married you for better."
As with The Bonfire of the Vanities, Wolfe prods his pen into the racial fault line that divides America, a fault line that rumbles and moans but has yet to split wide open. This book doesn't burn as brightly as Bonfire. The spelling out of regional accents in dialogue becomes tiresome. The storyline of Conrad -- a laid-off Crocker employee who embarks on an Odyssey-like cross-country adventure to influence the novel's endgame -- is contrived. The "Stoic" ending is far-fetched. A Man in Full is nonetheless worth reading. Those who disparage Wolfe's novels as thinly disguised nonfiction are far off-target.
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am 28. Februar 2000
A man in full? The only reference to the title in all 787 pages of Mr. Tom Wolfe's decade-awaited novel is a little ditty sung by admirers of one of the book's main characters, one Charlie Croker. Mr Croker is a real-estate developer in present-day Atlanta, and--this isn't spilling any beans, trust me--doesn't earn this description, at least initially. Who *does* deserve to be a Man In Full, when the trappings of this witty, ironic tome are finally played out? Probably the person you least suspect. The way we find out is heavy-handed, but at least it's a fun ride.

Mr. Wolfe has made a fine living writing pseudo-fiction (I'm sure professional reviewers have prettier words): dropping characters into present-day, very recognizable locales and moving them about like so many chess pieces. His somewhat dated 'Bonfire of the Vanities' skewered 1980's New York society (and spawned probably the worst film of the past 20-odd years) like no one else could, but ultimately did it matter? If he aspires to be more than the Thackery of his day, the author had better do better. He reaches far with this book.

And almost succeeds. Clearly, he's after very high ground, and the characters set to do battle are riotous: the aforementioned Croker, a megalomaniac developer from southern 'Jo-jah' desperately clinging to his fortune; Conrad Hensley, a peon working for part of Croker's empire, who's life will soon showcase Wolfe's view of the service economy, our lust for jailing petty perpetrators, the assimilation of new Asian immigrants, and even a stop at philosophical redemption; the mayor and a prominent lawyer--both black--who must find a way to defend a black star athlete from Georgia Tech accused of raping a prominent white citizen's daughter. Add to all those a delicious assortment of lesser characters, all outfitted with Wolfe's over-the-top naming conventions (a banker named--I'm not making this up--Raymond Peepgass, a Hungarian fitness instructor named Mustafa Gunt) and his standard exclamations points! You have an excellent cast, and the game is set.

It's a circus, but Wolfe commands them well. The characters' lives intertwine in ways we could probably predict once we know the staging--but we're left with one wildcard and we're made to wait for it. The book's second half almost predictably drags with all the characters save one, who may provide both deliverance and substance worthy of the book's title. Take all this in, and see if you agree.
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am 27. Januar 2000
At 742 pages, it takes a while to read this book. I looked it every night and enjoyed Tom Wolfe's prose. But I never thought about it during the time I wasn't reading it. I never felt the characters were real. I never felt a lurch in my heart, a tear in my eye, or a glow of warmth. I did chuckle to myself though, especially when Tom Wolfe does what he does best, which is to poke fun at the pretentiousness and conspicuous consumption of the very rich.
Charlie Croker, the lead character, is a wealthy real estate developer in Atlanta. He's 60 years old with a trophy wife, a private plane, and a plantation he uses for the recreational purpose of shooting quail just a few weeks a year. He's millions of dollars in debt to the bank and he keeps sinking further and further into a morass of his own making as the book progresses.
Racial politics come into the story in a twisting silly plot that keeps the story moving. None of the plot is believable, especially the ending, but that didn't impede my enjoyment of the book. I wasn't bored for a minute as I wallowed in Tom Wolfe's rich descriptions as the story developed.
One of the best characters in the book is a young man named Conrad, who is very loosely connected with Charlie Croker because he once worked Charlie Croker's frozen food company in California. Through a series of events, Conrad goes to prison and learns about the philosophy of stoicism. He and Charlie meet in the last few chapters in the book and Conrad is a driving forcing in bringing the plot to its conclusion.
As the book itself had an unbelievable plot, I can't see why anyone expected the ending to be realistic. Contrary to all reviews I have read and everyone I have spoken to who hated the ending, I felt differently. I liked the way the it ended. It summarized some interesting philosophical concepts and, after it ended and I felt its message haunting me for the next day.
The theme comes through loud and clear in the ending. The book is not just a story. It is about values. Important values. Values I can absorb in my own life. Values I can live with. And, given this as a theme, the ending makes sense.
I recommend this book. It's a good read.
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