I had been curious about Wolfe for a while and this one was lying around my wife’s bookshelf staring at me. Hooked within three pages! Despite the introduction (which is not really connected to the novel itself) being on the borderline of annoyingly self-serving, I liked that too. It mirrors many of my own feeling about navelgazing literary fiction, although of course Wolfe puts it far better than I could. What’s the point when the “real world” is so much more appealing?
The story is set in New York during the great roaring eighties, and Sherman McCoy, a bond trader on Wall Street, finds himself in big trouble with the law. The story sprawls over a vast territory, following lawyers, activists, reporters and socialites as they lead their lives. Each person’s life is affected by the McCoy case. For some, the encounter is gentle; for some, it is career enhancing; for some, it is disastrous. The characters are wonderfully described and Wolfe manages to get inside the head of each one, describing and explaining their fears and motivations masterfully. A truly magnificent work and, in it’s own way, a declaration of love for New York and it’s wondrous diversity.