I was introduced to Tom Wolfe through Dixon during my time at Furman. I read I am Charlotte Simmons and loved the way Wolfe was able to capture so many aspects of the college experience. I knew the characters he described, they just had different names and lived in my world instead.
I learned very quickly that Wolfe has the keen ability to write about life in ways that make you think he experienced every subject he writes about–when he wrote The Right Stuff, he was John Glenn and described the orbit around the earth with stunning accuracy such that I felt butterflies when the shuttle was reentering the atmosphere with its heat shield partially damaged (I may be getting mixed up here on plot details so forgive me if I am incorrect–it may have been a different astronaut).
I think that Wolfe’s books have this quality because he is an incredible researcher who will spend years and years learning about the subjects in his books. When he was researching A Man in Full and knew he would have to write about men working in the freezer of a food distribution company, he experienced it himself so that he could write with perfect accuracy–and this is such a minor detail of the story!
That being said, I have immense respect for Wolfe and know that when I read one of his books, I am certain to also learn facts about a variety of things that make up multiple human experiences that are quite real.
A Man in Full tells the tale of Atlanta when it was just beginning to become the economic powerhouse that it is today through the character Charlie Croker. Croker embodies that stereotype that everybody knows or at least can relate to–the former football star and southern charismatic who makes it big in the real estate world and loses sight of who he is in the process.
There are several other frame stories within the book with characters dealing with their own fates but who all somehow link back to Croker. I don’t want to get too deep into the plot here, but I will say that the book is incredibly complex, but brilliantly complex such that every part that seems ancillary actually plays a significant role in the final outcome.
It is exciting to see it all come together and I would especially recommend this book if you are from Atlanta because there are rumors floating about that several of the characters were based on actual figures.
This is a book for those of you who love to see the greedy fall or have interests in race relations, politics and the mysterious ways of the South.
There is a lot of build up to the plot in the beginning–mainly Wolfe setting his stage with at times extraneous details–but it is worth trudging through because the extra layers of complexity make the plot even more fascinating.
“A Man in Full” was a joy to read and I would be willing to pass it on to anyone who would like to read it.