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On many counts, the answer would have to be yes. Like its predecessor, A Man in Full is a big-canvas work, in which a multitude of characters seems to be ascending or (rapidly) descending the greasy pole of social life: "In an era like this one," a character reminds us, "the twentieth century's fin de siècle, position was everything, and it was the hardest thing to get." Wolfe has changed terrain on us, to be sure. Instead of New York, the focus here is Atlanta, Georgia, where the struggle for turf and power is at least slightly patinated with Deep South gentility. The plot revolves around Charlie Croker, an egomaniacal good ol' boy with a crumbling real-estate empire on his hands. But Wolfe is no less attentive to a pair of supporting players: a downwardly mobile family man, Conrad Hensley, and Roger White II, an African American attorney at a white-shoe firm. What ultimately causes these subplots to converge--and threatens to ignite a racial firestorm in Atlanta--is the alleged rape of a society deb by Georgia Tech football star Fareek "The Cannon" Fanon.
Of course, a detailed plot summary would be about as long as your average minimalist novel. Suffice it to say that A Man in Full is packed with the sort of splendid set pieces we've come to expect from Wolfe. A quail hunt on Charlie's 29,000-acre plantation, a stuffed-shirt evening at the symphony, a politically loaded press conference--the author assembles these scenes with contagious delight. The book is also very, very funny. The law firms, like upper-crust powerhouse Fogg Nackers Rendering & Lean, are straight out of Dickens, and Wolfe brings even his minor characters, like professional hick Opey McCorkle, to vivid life:
In true Opey McCorkle fashion he had turned up for dinner wearing a plaid shirt, a plaid necktie, red felt suspenders, and a big old leather belt that went around his potbelly like something could hitch up a mule with, but for now he had cut off his usual torrent of orotund rhetoric mixed with Baker Countyisms.Readers in search of a kinder, gentler Wolfe may well be disappointed. Retaining the satirist's (necessary) superiority to his subject, he tends to lose his edge precisely when he's trying to move us. Still, when it comes to maximalist portraiture of the American scene--and to sheer, sentence-by-sentence amusement--1998 looks to be the year of the Wolfe, indeed. --James Marcus --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
That should not be the case in a book that is over 700 pages long.
Wolfe aptly weaves the characters and the story together in a manner that leaves the reader thinking about American culture in new and interesting ways.
A few said they were terribly disappointed in an ending that felt tacked on and that there wasn't any resolution to the plot or to some of the characters.
This is probably the best book I've ever read. Being able to picture the environment as the story moves along is important to me, and Mr. Wolfe did that brilliantly. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Phillip Wicks
The second reading was as good as the first. Elegantly pulled together with lots of room for thought. Highly recommended as a book to read more than once.Published 1 month ago by Jan Tyler
A very good read. Well written and understandable characters easy to identify with.Published 2 months ago by Tonearm
This is a well woven story that encompasses so many levels of human life. When it starts out you can't imagine how it will all fit together. Read morePublished 3 months ago by ELLEN ARSENEAULT
Captured the Atlanta Way perfectly - and from every angle. Not a native, myself, I feel like I now understand my new home better.Published 3 months ago by KVM