Review by Booklist Review
Wes Jordan, the smart and wily African American mayor of Wolfe's fictionalized version of Atlanta, tells an attorney friend unhappy about his nickname, Roger Too White, that Atlanta is like a baseball: wrapped in white but with a black core. The complexities of race relations and politics, along with the decadence of the wealthy and the true nature of masculinity, form the infrastructure of Wolfe's new novel--a doozy of a book with nearly universal appeal. Wolfe is a raconteur of the first order, creating scenes of mesmerizing psychological conflict, intense action, and bold social commentary. His main man is Charlie Croker, a hulking cracker from south Georgia who began his ascent as a college football star, then went on to build an empire, ultimately owning jets, mansions, a frozen-foods corporation, a plantation no less, and Croker Concourse, a failed Edge City development. Once a quintessential good-old-boy master of the universe, Croker has run up debts as massive as his ego. As his confused hero struggles like an angry bull in a small pen, Wolfe introduces the rest of his intriguing characters, setting them down like pieces on a vast board game. Each chapter documents a player's move; the object of the game is survival; and the stakes are high for Charlie, the mayor, Raymond Peepgass (a banker with serious financial troubles of his own), and Conrad Hensley, a laid-off employee of Croker Global Foods. Wolfe can write authoritatively about nearly anything, from Freaknic, the annual gathering of African American students in Atlanta, to rattlesnakes, a chichi art opening, a prison rape, an earthquake, and men's suits (he's a fiend for sartorial detail). A Man in Full is a bravado performance to be sure, but shrewdly and provocatively so, and it is without question terrifically entertaining. --Donna Seaman
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
However the National Book Award judges managed to get hold of Wolfe's much-delayed second novel in time to give it their nod as an NBA finalist, they were quite right to do so. It's a dazzling performance, offering a panoramic vision of America at the end of the 20th century that ranges with deceptive ease over our economic, political and racial hang-ups and at the same time maintains a brisk narrative pace that makes the huge book seem only a quarter of its real length. Balzac had the same gift. The "man in full" of the title (the phrase comes from an old song) is Charlie Croker, a good-ole-boy real-estate developer in Atlanta whose sprawling South Georgia plantation, massive mansion in the best part of town, half-empty skyscraper tower named after himself, horde of servants, fleet of jets and free-spending trophy second wife have left him terribly vulnerable to bankers deciding the party's over. As a former football star, however, the suggestion is put to him that there is something he can do to ease his situation. A black Georgia Tech player clearly headed for greatness may have raped the daughter of one of Charlie's old business buddies. If Charlie can help the city's ambitious black mayor maintain calm, the bank just might be persuaded to ease up on him. Three thousand miles away in California, Conrad Hensley, an idealistic young worker at a warehouse run by one of Charlie's subsidiary companies, fired in an offhand downsizing designed to placate the bank, runs afoul of the law in a farcical parking hassle and is thrown in jail. There, in fear of his life, Conrad absorbs Stoic philosophy from a book his wife has sent him, and, aided by a timely earthquake (sent by Zeus?), begins to turn his life around until the day, in exile in Atlanta, he encounters Charlie. These parallel plot lines, examining with microscopic precision the obsessions, preoccupations, habits and lingo of life at the top and bottom of American society, are both compelling in themselves and resonant with a sense of the vast mystery and comedy of contemporary life in this amazing country. Wolfe is as adept at scenes painted with high satirical glee (Charlie on a quail hunt, or introducing shrinking business guests to an all-out stud performance by a prize racehorse) as he is with horror and pity (his picture of life for Conrad in his California jail is almost unbearably intense). Despite the very occasional longeurs (readers learns more Atlanta geography than they may care to) and writerly tics (Wolfe still can't resist onomatopoetic outbursts), the novel is a major advance on The Bonfire of the Vanities in its range, power and compassion, while retaining all of that book's breathless contemporaneity and readability. 1.2 million firt printing; simultanneous audio from BDD.(Nov 6). (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review
Wolfe serves up all the greed, nastiness, and political correctness of the late 1990s in his latest novel about a good-ol'-boy zillionaire with a staggering load of debt and a trophy wife. Woven in with the Atlanta real estate developer's story are those of an idealistic young man in jail in California who discovers the Stoic philosophers and an African American football star accused of raping a white debutante. All of the threads come together in the end, with a plot twist that leaves the listener blinking in wonderment. Still, Wolfe is masterful at capturing the echoes of people and events in recent American experience with exuberance and wit. The scene in the race horse breeding barn is an absolute masterpiece. David Ogden Stiers does a wonderful job with the many voices in this immense story. His ability to capture regional speech and timing are flawless, and his portrayal of each character's emotional range is dead on. The production is terrific. For all libraries with popular fiction collections.Barbara Valle, El Paso P.L., TX (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.