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.
TV reviewBroadcasting House was preparing for a visit from Prince Charles spoiler alert
Glastonbury Michael Eavis reveals final headline act 'most likely' British pair
Film Ewan McGregor joins star-studded Beauty and the Beast cast as Lumiere
TVThe Island with Bear Grylls under fire after male contestants kill and eat rare crocodile
Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Frank Lampard's face drops when Holly Willoughby introduces him as a 'Man City legend'
- 2 Sofyen Belamouadden murder: The inside story of a crime that horrified Britain
- 3 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 4 The Visit: Trailer for M Night Shyamalan's latest horror film is terrifying
- 5 9/11: Iranian General accuses US of organising September 11 terror attacks
Fast & Furious 7 overtakes Frozen to become 5th highest grossing movie of all time
Poldark, series 1 finale, review: How a costume drama became a Sunday night swoon-fest
The Visit: Trailer for M Night Shyamalan's latest horror film is terrifying
Apprentice series 11: Claude Littner to replace Nick Hewer as Lord Sugar's aide
Game of Thrones season 5 episode 3, review: Sansa and manhood-lopping torturer Ramsay Bolton - really?
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
Andrew Lloyd Webber: Phantom of the Opera writer mocked after issuing a warning about Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon
General election 2015: Labour will toughen hate crimes legislation surrounding Islamophobia
HSBC review into moving headquarters from UK 'underway'