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.
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 2 The awkward moment Sarah Palin raised $25,000 for Hillary Clinton's election campaign
- 3 Ball pool for adults opens in London
- 4 Amal Clooney gives excellent response to fashion question at European Court of Human Rights
- 5 Baldness could soon be treated using stem cells, scientists hope
The Jump 2015 line-up: Joey Essex, Mike Tindall, Jodie Kidd and co take to the slopes
Heavy metal producer's corpse to be mutilated by models as per his dying wish
Game of Thrones, season 5: Grey Worm actor Jacob Anderson is all for more male nudity – as long as he can keep his clothes on
Thrill of the chaste: The truth about Gandhi's sex life
Martin Scorsese 'in shock' after death on set of new film Silence
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures