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Customer Review

119 of 134 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Miami. See It Like a Native, November 16, 2012
This review is from: Back to Blood: A Novel (Hardcover)
When my mother died twenty one years ago, a Herald reporter, assigned to write her obituary, asked me if she resented all the changes that had come to Miami during the forty plus years she had lived in South Florida. My mother, having once quit the Junior League when asked to make a speech about "holding the color line", might have cancelled her subscription to the paper on the spot. She loved Miami and everything it had become. She watched in wonderment as the nouveau riche socialites invaded the emerging art community, of which as a member of the Art In Public Places Trust, she was a key player. Their never-ending social climbing and self-promoting "philanthropy" was the subject of many cocktail hour stories in my house.

So this is a very personal book for me. It is about the community Miami in which I grew up, and the cultural and economic forces which make the former sleepy Southern outpost, full of Georgians like my parents into a world-class city. Money and culture define the town-the old guard WASPs (like me), the first, second and third waves of Cuban migration, the Haitians, and now the Russians some of whom are more brutal than the Columbian cowboys of thirty years ago who once staged a gun battle on the Palmetto Expressway.

But it is money that truly defines this place as Tom Wolfe so aptly describes. Social climbing has never gone away, and if you want to be a crook around here, the surest way to succeed and escape the interest of law enforcement and the press is to spread cash around and get your name on every cultural institution in sight.

Wolfe may be the best chronicler of urban life in the modern era. Bonfire of the Vanities nails New York. A Man in Full skewers Atlanta. And now Back to Blood reveals Miami.

Not that many years ago, the Miami tourism bureau offered a poster of the back of a model, clad only with mask, snorkel and the skimpy bottom half of a bikini with the tag line "Miami. See It Like a Native." The model, who had been a secretary in a law firm where I was practicing, was not quite as exciting in real life as she was plastered in airports around the world.

This book, however, is. Even if you are not from here, it will amaze you.
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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 16, 2012 6:35:57 AM PST
Dowell Myers says:
Rarely are reviews on Amazon crafted as well as the prose the review is about. Me thinks the critic has been totally absorbed in the novel at hand, acting out the roles prescribed, and at the same time assuming the persona of the author. If that is the effect of this Tom Wolfe creation, this must be one powerful work. Either it is the literary inspiration or the memory of the secretary in the headline. My takeaway is that Miami, as a crossroads in culture and time, is surely too complex to capture in any book, but Cornell the reviewer argues a damn good case.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 16, 2012 7:37:15 AM PST
Thanks Dowell. You will enjoy it.

Posted on Nov 19, 2012 5:13:01 AM PST
Lee Hart says:
Had similar experience via my bachelor Uncles in Coral Gables. In the 80s they started to not get recognized first in their beloved bakery, etc. But they evolved and embraced the new culture. They're still alive and believe the transformation of Miami is like what happened to New York's boroughs after Ellis Island. The only think I read about that is negative about Miami, is that its leaders now are very progressive so that is not good for entrepreneurial spirit.

Posted on Nov 21, 2012 3:21:25 AM PST
G. Cooper says:
I plan to read this book, based on Ware Cornell's helpful review. Also, Tom Wolf is a native of Richmond, VA, so he knows how Old South cities tick.

Posted on Dec 7, 2012 11:07:39 PM PST
anonymous says:
I'm reading the book, anyway, despite G.Ware's praise. We're Southerners, too, but by contrast, hate what Miami became and no longer even visit there. Wolfe always cuts through the haze and calls things as they are, though, so no doubt he does the same with Miami as for New York and Atlanta, etc. At first, wasn't going to buy the book, since ---as said--- it's set in a place we stay out of nowadays, and books s/a this only serve as a reminder of a south that has become alien to so many Americans, especially those whose time in America dates from before the constitution.
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