Back To Blood by Tom Wolfe(1 star out of 5)

OK, I have to confess, I’m not a huge Tom Wolfe fan. I read Bonfire of the Vanities and didn’t dig it. I read I Am Charlotte Simmons, and didn’t mind that. Didn’t mind, not as in indifferent, but if I hadn’t gotten a free galley of it at the other book joint where I used to work, well, I wouldn’t have read it(likely).  Honesty here. I haven’t been wowed by Tom Wolfe, but after getting a free galley at my current gig, I figured, it got great reviews, maybe this will sway my opinion. Unfortunately, not the case.

I could easily got into all of my reasons for not digging this, but I’ll summarize first, then complaints later. The book takes place in Miami. Miami- as in Gloria Estefan, the Dolphins, and Don Johnson…at least in my mind. Also- the blasted Miami Heat. I begged, I hoped, I said novenas!, that this book would sway me away from those cliched doormats in my cluttered attic of a mind. Nope. If anything, it made for a poor season of Miami Vice, the un-aired season(Don Johnson, Philip Michael Thomas, forgive me!). A litany of characters, among them a Cuban-American policeman, a RN who spends almost a whole page bitching that her boyfriend is so ‘white”(I wish I were kidding), and other unforgettable characters. I just could not sympathize or connect with any of them. The whole lot of them were overdramatic, whiny, bitchtarts(new word- bitchtarts-copyright G@2012.). There’s a lot of other crazy shit going on in this Miami, Tom Wolfe style. I always appreciate some form of chaos, but this was just- distracting to the point of trying to aid a seamless plot. Almost like watching an episode of Sanford & Son with only the truck. The camera focuses on the truck, the junk in the yard, Julio and the goat in the background, etc…but no real beginning, end, or middle. The book felt like it was supposed to end up with some great proclamation of the immigration crisis in the USA and the plight that immigrants face trying to make a life in the US. But it never reaches there. The camera is filming inanimate objects. It felt like Tom Wolfe was writing inanimate objects. There’s always chaos in the Tom Wolfe canon, but this one is blowing off and nothing is coming out. The main duo- Nestor, the cop, and Magdalena(nice name, dude, seriously)- together, not together, bemoaning their lives and the culture of where they live. Here’s an idea- MOVE! That’s what I kept saying as I plowed through this behemouth. MOVE! I should have taken my advice and moved the hell onto another book instead of wasting my whole week reading this.

What did I like? I like the strange and bizarre things Tom Wolfe did with grammar and exclamation points, colons, etc. Erratic and excitable grammar- I definitely enjoy that. Maybe I kept on reading it to see what kind of grammatical chaos he could continue to cause with the book. I do enjoy his dramatic renderings at the mouth of his characters- when they are incensed about something, oh boy, do they ramble on. I feel a kinship with that, I do that in real life(ask everyone, I kid not). I also liked the cover, but had hoped for more cute men with five o’clock shadow and pastel suits. No, seriously, I like the cover. The title–made me think of a bloody basketball game between that dope LeBron James and Derrick Rose(no, it didn’t happen, except for that Hunger Games-basketball game in my mind). I kept wanting to call it In Cold Blood, until I realized that is one of my favorite books of all time and I wouldn’t dare align it with this(though I obviously have no problem doing so here). Contradictions, different people in one city who are radically different yet fit their stereotypes perfectly, bonhomie in the face of multiple and radical vocabulary peppering their way through the opus. I think Tom Wolfe really did try to make a point here and get a message across about ethnic stereotypes and trying to triumph in a hard time and hard society, but all he ensured was that his White Suits(kind of like BrownCoats, although not as awesome) would buy this and buy him- well, a whole new closet of white suits.

So, if you dig a lot of vocabulary and melodramatic, soul-shattering soliloquies, then this is the book you want to read next. 

~ by generationgbooks on November 14, 2012.

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