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Back to Blood by Tom Wolfe

Back to Blood (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Tom Wolfe, Lou Diamond Phillips (Reader)

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5522618,107 (3.38)20
Title:Back to Blood
Authors:Tom Wolfe
Other authors:Lou Diamond Phillips (Reader)
Info:Little, Brown & Company (2012), Edition: Abridged, Audio CD
Collections:Read but unowned
Tags:fiction american

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Back to Blood by Tom Wolfe (2012)



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Empty Calories

Henry David Thoreau wrote that, "the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them." Eric Berne acknowledges the same in Games People Play. He writes, "There is no hope for the human race but there is hope for individual members of it."

In A Man in Full, Tom Wolfe shows us the hopelessness of man. But he also shows us individual members of the human race for which there is hope. He puts us in the muck, but offers a path out.

A good young man, struggling and falling for no fault of his own, discovers the ancient, but timely thinking of the Greek Stoic, Epictetus. Through this philosophy he bonds with another of a higher socioeconomic status.

In Back to Blood we see the same hopeless clash of cultures and classes we found in A Man in Full--the same societal disease, but with no apparent antidote.

For the follow up to I am Charlotte Simmons, Wolfe planned to explore immigration through a Vietnamese community in California. Instead he claimed the turf of his closest literary rival, Carl Hiaasen. Miami Florida, with its diverse population: "A melting pot full of hard cases that don't want to melt, they only shake, rattle, and roil."

I was a fan of Tom Wolfe. I wanted views that stretched beyond the untenable political philosophies of liberalism and conservativism. I wanted novels with plot and meaning. Novels that entertained and instructed. I found some of what I sought in Bonfire of the Vanities, A Man in Full, and even I am Charlotte Simmons. I am unmoved, however, by Back to Blood; and wondering why I took to the author to begin with.

In his essay My Three Stooges, Wolfe declares that, "The American novel is dying, not of obsolescence, but of anorexia... It needs novelists with huge appetites and mighty, un-slaked thirsts for... America... as she is right now. Food! Food! Feed me! is the cry of the twenty-first century in literature and all the so-called serious arts in America. The revolution of the twenty-first century, if the arts are to survive, will have a name to which no ism can be easily attached. It will be called `content.'"

But content needs context. I got the feeling reading Back to Blood that the research was driving the story. Tom Wolfe is famous for approaching a novel like a newspaper feature. The implication is that to really capture a place the novelist must spend a great deal of time there. In truth, Wolfe could have gotten most of what he needed for Back to Blood from the comfort of his home: video of Miami Basel, and the Columbus Day Regatta, images of every part of South Florida, subscriptions to Ocean Drive and the Miami Herald...I believe in the documentary approach to literature but the art is not limited to those with the time and wealth to travel. Slice-of-life, after all, should be subordinated to plot, character and theme.

The revolution of the twenty-first century in literature goes beyond content and, in fact, demands an ism. The fiction of tomorrow is work of literary organicism. Like Wolfe's, it follows real life closely, blurring the lines between fiction and nonfiction. But it is stripped of the ornate. It is streamline and efficient. If literary organicism is to succeed where other isms (and Wolfe, in this latest effort) has failed, it will show not only what is, but also what could and should be.
  meritocrat | Sep 10, 2016 |
Definitely not his best. I usually enjoy his characters, but these were all one dimensional. ( )
  VictoriaNH | Feb 1, 2016 |
I agree with most of the reviews posted to date. I enjoyed his other books more. Still this one kept my interest and I did finish it which means it wasn't that bad. I was hoping for more and pray it's not his last (but I fear it may be). ( )
  Charlie-Ravioli | Jan 18, 2016 |
Written with flair, at times interesting, particularly suitable for Americans who live in Florida.
  skulli99 | Oct 18, 2014 |
If I had read this book instead of listened to it, I t would have gotten a "meh" rating. Wolfe is great at social satire, but theree are huge logic gaps in the plot, and his characters come perilously close to being two dimensional cardboard cut outs. Lou Diamond Phillipsis a fantastic reader. He does great accents (Cubans, yuppies, Russian oligarchs, Florida retirees), and it sounds like he's having so much fun. A very pleasurable listening experience. ( )
  HenryKrinkle | Jul 23, 2014 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0316036315, Hardcover)

A writer like Tom Wolfe probably shouldn’t have to stage a comeback, but there will doubtless be reviewers of his new novel, Back to Blood, who describe it that way. In Wolfe's career of great books, his last novel, published in 2004, was considered by many to be a stumble--but Back to Blood is a return to form, a work that solidifies Wolfe’s stature as one of the best. Using his incisive journalistic skills, his flair for the cinematic moment, and his laugh-out-loud sense of humor, Wolfe takes the disparate types in and around Miami to create a tapestry of memorable scenes and characters. The result is entertaining, revealing, and perhaps even bigger than the sum of its parts. This is a book that will do for Miami what Wolfe's mega-hit The Bonfire of the Vanities did for New York. --Chris Schluep

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:50 -0400)

A colorful cast of residents and visitors to Miami go about their daily activities, both legal and illegal.

(summary from another edition)

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