After a slow start, Tom Wolfe builds A Man in Full into a riveting, multifaceted story that shatters into shards in the final chapter.
The central character is Charlie Crocker, a good ol’ boy who use his football prowess to get access to Atlanta’s wealthy elite where by salesmanship—which Charlie believes is synonymous with manhood—he built a commercial empire.
As the story opens, Charlie is in his sixties and in deep financial trouble.
Another story-line is about Conrad Hensley, an employee in one of Charlie’s warehouses, who is trying to raise himself by his bootstraps.
A third story-line is about Atlanta’s black mayor’s attempt to prevent racial incidents over rumors—no charges have been filed—that a black, Georgia Tech football player raped the daughter one of the city’s leading white establishment figures.
Wolfe is funny in an ugly, wise-cracking way. He ridicules Charlie for his lack of education and sophistication and mocks Charlie’s ex-wife for being hurt by people who cut her because she’s been replaced.
There’s no middle class in Wolfe’s picture. He contrasts blotches of poverty, prisons, and hopelessness with shimmering wealth, self-indulgence, and conspicuous consumption.
The world of A Man in Full is interesting to read but unpleasant to contemplate.
A Man in Full by Tom Wolfe
Farrar, Straus, Giroux. ©1998. 742 p.
1998 bestseller #4; my grade: B+
©2020 Linda G. Aragoni