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A Man in Full Paperback – October 30, 2001

3.5 out of 5 stars 1,002 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Choosing David Ogden Stiers (M*A*S*H, The Accidental Tourist) to narrate this sprawling tale of contemporary American society was an act of inspired audio casting. The familiar, snobbish qualities of his warm yet condescending voice perfectly match author Tom Wolfe's own carefully sculpted persona of haughty disdain and color the recording with an interesting sense of authenticity. Without indulging in overwrought characterizations, Stiers manages to create enough distinction between players to keep this sweeping epic coherent. There are moments that find him overreaching, but when voicing a novel this broad, some notes are bound to ring false. Overall, Stiers's abridged reading is an intelligent, entertaining rendition of Wolfe's scrupulously detailed and bitingly funny portrait of America at the turn of the millennium. (Running time: 8.5 hours, 6 cassettes) --George Laney

From Publishers Weekly

However the National Book Award judges managed to get hold of Wolfe's much-delayed second novel in time to give it their nod as an NBA finalist, they were quite right to do so. It's a dazzling performance, offering a panoramic vision of America at the end of the 20th century that ranges with deceptive ease over our economic, political and racial hang-ups and at the same time maintains a brisk narrative pace that makes the huge book seem only a quarter of its real length. Balzac had the same gift. The "man in full" of the title (the phrase comes from an old song) is Charlie Croker, a good-ole-boy real-estate developer in Atlanta whose sprawling South Georgia plantation, massive mansion in the best part of town, half-empty skyscraper tower named after himself, horde of servants, fleet of jets and free-spending trophy second wife have left him terribly vulnerable to bankers deciding the party's over. As a former football star, however, the suggestion is put to him that there is something he can do to ease his situation. A black Georgia Tech player clearly headed for greatness may have raped the daughter of one of Charlie's old business buddies. If Charlie can help the city's ambitious black mayor maintain calm, the bank just might be persuaded to ease up on him. Three thousand miles away in California, Conrad Hensley, an idealistic young worker at a warehouse run by one of Charlie's subsidiary companies, fired in an offhand downsizing designed to placate the bank, runs afoul of the law in a farcical parking hassle and is thrown in jail. There, in fear of his life, Conrad absorbs Stoic philosophy from a book his wife has sent him, and, aided by a timely earthquake (sent by Zeus?), begins to turn his life around until the day, in exile in Atlanta, he encounters Charlie. These parallel plot lines, examining with microscopic precision the obsessions, preoccupations, habits and lingo of life at the top and bottom of American society, are both compelling in themselves and resonant with a sense of the vast mystery and comedy of contemporary life in this amazing country. Wolfe is as adept at scenes painted with high satirical glee (Charlie on a quail hunt, or introducing shrinking business guests to an all-out stud performance by a prize racehorse) as he is with horror and pity (his picture of life for Conrad in his California jail is almost unbearably intense). Despite the very occasional longeurs (readers learns more Atlanta geography than they may care to) and writerly tics (Wolfe still can't resist onomatopoetic outbursts), the novel is a major advance on The Bonfire of the Vanities in its range, power and compassion, while retaining all of that book's breathless contemporaneity and readability. 1.2 million firt printing; simultanneous audio from BDD.(Nov 6).
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 704 pages
  • Publisher: Dial Press; Reprint edition (October 31, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553381334
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553381337
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.2 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,002 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #188,000 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
Though I haven't had time to read all 805 previous reviews, my brief survey of them alerted me to the surprising fact that most readers took Charlie Croker, the big Atlanta businessman, to be the protagonist of this book. And if you think that, then no wonder if you're not satisfied with the story! Perhaps, in some barebones technical literary sense, Charlie Croker is the main character of the book. He is introduced on the first page; he gets more column inches, or whatever the equivalent is in book format; he is rich, powerful, important, and a large part of the storyline revolves around the changes in his fortune and the way he copes with them, or fails to. But if you let those things fool you into thinking that A Man in Full is primarily "about" Charlie Croker, then you have not only missed the whole point of the story, but made yourself an example of the very commentary Wolfe is trying to drive home.
The true protagonist - or I should better say, the hero (and most certainly the referent of the title) - of this book is Conrad Hensley, the underdog family man who works in one of Croker's frozen food warehouses, undergoes a long series of unlikely adventures, and accidentally discovers the ancient Stoic religion, which becomes his salvation. The whole point of Stoicism is that it doesn't matter who you are socially, what you have, or what people think of you. All that really matters is what you alone can control: your own emotional/mental/spiritual state. Happiness lies in not letting yourself be controlled by externals. Let go of your attachments to them - accept that they are beyond your control - and nothing can touch you. This is what it means to be a true man, and in the book it is Conrad, not Croker, who achieves this ideal.
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Format: Paperback
Tom Wolfe is praised as a brilliant social novelist and I don't read enough of that type of novel to comment on the success of A Man in Full. I have read Bonfire of the Vanities and now this book, and I found them both to be quite enjoyable. A Man in Full is similar to Bonfire with sprawling chapters full of thoughts and descriptions of the main characters. This book is set in Atlanta, where Charlie Croker is an aging real estate developer and former football star. Croker's financial empire is on the verge of collapse and his personal life isn't going to well either.

As with Bonfire, Wolfe writes about the polically connected, race politics and the very wealthy. Charlie Croker and friends judge others based on the amount of money they have and the material possessions they own. Using this criteria to judge others is obviously foolish to all except the most materialistic. Except for Conrad Hensley, the Croker employee arrested for assault, the poorest main character is a banker named Peepgas who has a Harvard MBA and makes $120,000 a year. Needless to say, the social arena Wolfe writes about is above that of most readers. That doesn't mean the book isn't entertaining. I enjoyed all of the characters and their interaction.

When an all-American African American football player at Georgia Tech is suspected of rape, racial tension threatens to destroy Atlanta. Croker is about to lose all his possessions to his creditors and his sexy wife half his age isn't too thrilled about it. Roger White is the black lawyer called on by the black mayor to see if he can get the crusty old Croker to speak out. Conrad Hensley is the Croker employee who is fired then thrown in jail. All the plots slowly converge. This book isn't about action, its about characters.
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Format: Paperback
This novel addresses the question of modern manhood; specifically it addresses the question of how to be a man in the modern/postmodern world. Wolfe recognizes that the erosion of traditional gender, societal, and familial roles over the past century has left a vacuum of purpose in the lives of modern individuals. They can no longer look to religion, tradition, or culture to direct their decisions or to refine their character. So where can a modern man turn for advice on how to live? In desperation the characters in A Man in Full turn to the past and discover that the quest for purpose may not be a modern problem, and that the troublesome solution may have always been within their grasp.

This novel shows a different side to Tom Wolfe in that several of the characters are actually likeable. Wolfe has a reputation for poking fun at everything and everyone, but in A Man in Full the three main characters, as flawed as they are, evoke sympathy and understanding from the reader. Conrad's car trouble episode, for example, is the best representation of the frustrations of working poverty that I have ever read. As always Wolfe exhibits his signature style of defining modern American culture in great documentary detail, from the grandiose to the miniscule, with searing insight. The novel tends to be over-documentary at times which slows down the narrative, and the ending seems clipped and a bit unnatural. Overall, though, this novel is an instant classic, and proves that Wolfe is the best writer of his generation. A.
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