Archive for March 13, 2008

Bonfire of the Vanities…

DeeTee From DeeTee:  The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe, published in the 1980’s, is an amazing novel of politics, crime, and corruption that is so prominent… today!

 Sorry, I’m still fixated on the Eliot Spitzer story.  Let’s compare some key points:

In Bonfire, Sherman McCoy is a Wall Street bond trader who fancies himself as a “master of the universe,” has tons of money, a lovely family, and of course, a younger mistress.  Sherman is a likeable guy with a way-inflated ego.  At first his offense is “merely” immoral (adultery) but soon becomes illegal, when his paramour (the inimitable Maria Ruskin) accidentally hits — and seriously injures — a young  black man as she and Sherman try to escape a bad scenario in Harlem.

It’s a hit-and-run.  Sherman wants to go to the police; Maria refuses, saying “They’d love to get their hands on you and me” (p. 97) — meaning the police, the press, the ravenous hounds who love to tear down the high and mighty in meaty scandals.

Of course, the more Sherman tries to hide the truth, the more it comes out.  Not only is there juicy social scandal; there is the racial aspect (wealthy white socialites hit poor black youth and leave the scene), which feeds the racial and political tension of the times.

Sherman’s world soon explodes.  Right before he’s arrested and the press zoom in like vultures, he has to tell his wife, who already had her suspicions that Sherman was having an affair:  “Her cheeks were streaked with tears.  ‘I’m going to try to help you… in any way I can.  But I can’t give you my love, and I can’t give you tenderness.  I’m not that good an actress.  I wish I were, because you’re going to need love and tenderness, Sherman.’

“Sherman said, ‘Can’t you forgive me?’

” ‘I suppose I could’ she said.  ‘But what would that change?’

“He had no answer.” (p. 454)

OK, enough:  if you haven’t already, read the book!!!  It’s a fascinating study of bureaucracy, hypocrisy, politics, and press, and amazingly was written over 20 years ago and is just as true today.

In the Spitzer scandal, we have the immorality of him cheating on his wife; the illegality of the prostitution and how much $$$$ was involved; the hypocrisy of him prosecuting the very crime he has committed; the social, public, and political scandal… No doubt when he told his wife what was about to go down it must have been very similar to the scene in Bonfire.

Unlike the book, Spitzer’s wife manages to stand by his side.  Why did she do that?  On the one hand, very noble of her; on the other, very cowardly of him to let her.

Both Bonfire and real-life show how the public simply can’t get enough of a good scandal.  In Bonfire, why does the press zoom in not only on Sherman but his 5-year-old daughter, his neighbors, his family?  Why, in real life, is the press outing “Kristin, the high-priced prostitute“?  We now know her real name, and have access to her MySpace page (well, not anymore — looks like it was (finally) removed).  

Is it necessary to ravage everyone involved?  It’s a very hungry world we live in, I guess…  and that’s it for now…

March 13, 2008 at 1:38 pm 2 comments


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