Paperback review: Back to Blood, By Tom Wolfe
Wolfe howls against America's obsessions
Sunday 28 July 2013
Tom Wolfe is a great admirer of Dickens, and there is something Dickensian in the panoramic view of society on display here – in this case 21st-century Miami rather than Victorian London.
In this epic, hectic, satirical tale of a Cuban cop who, in trying to do his job, first offends the Cuban community, then outrages the African-American community, and then teams up with an Anglo journalist to research a dangerous story on an expat Russian oligarch, Wolfe skewers just about every contemporary American obsession going: race and identity politics for sure, but also pornography, sex addiction, celebrity culture, social status, and – a long-standing target of Wolfe's – the art world. Characters come from every stratum of society, from prostitutes to professors of French literature, cops to mayors, journalists to billionaires, and are variously Latino, black, white, mixed-race – but Wolfe doesn't just write about them, he writes through them; sees the world through their eyes. Some may find the style overheated, with its outbreaks of italics and upper-case, its clusters of exclamation marks, its bursts of onomatopoeia and rhythmic repetitions. Personally I found it addictive, and finished it in three days (it's 704 pages). It's scathing, funny, and has great set-piece scenes like the crazed orgy on a flotilla of yachts in the Florida Keys, or the unseemly scramble to buy vacuous artworks at an exhibition – not because the buyers like them, but to prevent rivals getting a sniff. Like Dickens, Wolfe is both amused and angered by the society he portrays. The satire isn't subtle. But then, Dickens wasn't subtle.
Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'music
Review: Cilla, ITV TV
To mark Tolstoy's 186th birthdaybooks
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Thailand deaths: Pair's bloodied bodies found naked on Koh Tao beach
- 2 Scottish independence: Ireland since 1919 is a lesson for Scotland in what a Yes vote means
- 3 Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
- 4 John Travolta addresses former pilot's gay romance allegations publicly for the first time
- 5 Kanye West stops concert after two fans don't stand up - doesn't realise one is in wheelchair and the other disabled
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
The political class is doing what Hitler couldn’t – destroying Britain
Scottish independence: Nationalist leader Jim Sillars threatens pro-union companies with 'day of reckoning' after independence
Scottish independence: Yes campaign feels the heat as Alex Salmond's NHS claims come under furious attack
Portuguese academic says British are 'filthy, violent and drunk'
£23m Birmingham cycle scheme is attacked by Tory councillor for not catering to the elderly