Feature

Novel of the week: Back to Blood by Tom Wolfe

Tom Wolfe wants to lay bare Miami's ideological and racial divides.

(Little, Brown, $30)

Pick a city, “presume it to be a site of simmering racial civil war,” and satirize the battle, said James Wood in The New Yorker. The blueprint for a Tom Wolfe novel hasn’t changed much since 1987’s Bonfire of the Vanities. This time, the city is Miami, a teeming melting pot where, as one character remarks, “everybody hates everybody.” Wolfe’s characters span Miami’s ethnic spectrum and include a muscle-bound Cuban-American cop and a WASPy editor of The Miami Herald. Yet Wolfe gives each one “the same raging pulse,” making every character a “blaring Klaxon” for his own excitability. He wants to lay bare Miami’s ideological and racial divides but seems “incapable of intelligently analyzing them.” For a while, Wolfe’s “circus of tribal warfare is entertaining enough,” said Ron Charles in The Washington Post. But at 700 pages, it becomes wearying. The fast-paced comic romp Wolfe might have written is buried by too many detours. “Miami deserves better, and so do we.”

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