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I guess you CAN go home again. - Blather. Rants. Repeat.
A Møøse once bit my sister ...
captainsblog
captainsblog
I guess you CAN go home again.
Wrong Wolfe, I know, but the reference fits the post more than "Right Stuff" or "Electric Acid Kool-Aid" does.

I just finished Book 32 of the year- Tom Wolfe's most recent, Back to Blood. No idea what inspired me to pick it off the library's e-download plate; it was Just There. I had my doubts about taking on such a weighty tome, but it was the Miami setting that really did it, and that kept me going even through his frequent forays into both Spanish and Stream-of-Consciousnessish.

Not that Miami appeals; quite the opposite. We last visited slightly-norther-South Florida in 2005, and Eleanor and I were both immensely turned off by its class distinctions and fake opulence bordering abject poverty, often within a block. But for the past seven-plus years, I've become addicted to Dexter, which is allegedly set there, despite being mostly filmed on SoCal back lots.  So I went along with Tom this time to see if his reality of Miami was more interesting than the fakeness of the nonexistent Miami Metro that exists within Showtime's walls.

That much, I have to say, he nailed. He dives into the Cuban, and neg (as they call the African-Americans), and even Russian subcultures of Miami-Dade, covering many of the same ethnicities that Dexter has worked with throughout its run; and he weaves their mutual hatred of each other into an orderly but ultimately satisfying blend of plot and characters of all the various stocks.

He's also far more faithful to the real-ness of places than Dex has ever been. For instance: I never knew that Miami's City Hall is a two-story converted seaplane hangar, left over from the 1930s heyday of Pan American Airlines, which built it- and still has its logos on it. Yet that's all true- and there is therefore nothing like the towering behemoth we call City Hall here in Buffalo, or the imagined monoliths of Michael C. Hall's world.

Wolfe's main failing is where he mixes reality into his fiction. Some institutions, he skewers whole- such as the Miami Herald and its Spanish-language Nuevo counterpart, which exists in an almost entirely separate universe. But when he makes fun of actual celebrities, such as Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones (still married at the time of publication), he changes their names in an almost MAD magazine parody style to fend off the lawsuits.

This is my first Wolfe-ing down of one of his fictional magnum opii since the first one, Bonfire of the Vanities.  That one, published the year we got married, actually contained the title of this novel somewhere in its 18 gagillion pages. It also told a similar tale of clashing classes within, in that case, the Greater Noo Yawk area. I got through it, even liking it, at the time of reading it, but then two things happened to sour me.  One came a few years later, when Eleanor and I got invited to a Show Off The House Party at the new massive home of my then senior partner.  BOTV was one of several novels prominently displayed in their Great Room, but in places, and in ways, that made clear that they were mere decorations, and not anything that either P or C had actually read or would read at any point in their lives. That was one of the early signs that I'd been adopted into the wrong legal family- one that led me to leaving, and us to moving here, a few years later.

The other factor was the movie that came out of the book- directed by Brian DePalma and putting America's Male Sweetheart Tom Hanks in the evil Master of the Universe lead.  It was critically and popularly panned; I can't even recall if I suffered through its two-plus hours of pain. I do know that it made me suspect of anything else coming out of Wolfe's pen for over a quarter century, until now.

B2B hasn't sold especially well, and there's no sign yet of a film adaptation- but I take it for what it is- a 700-page dive into South Florida heat and humidity that I knocked off from the relative comfort of a late Buffalo summer.

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