Barbecue of the Absurdities

Forget the miserable movie long ago with the terribly miscast Tom Hanks and even more unwatchable Melanie Griffith. Wolfe’s Bonfire is too dense, too intricate and simply too damn long to make into a contemporary movie — especially with sub 120 minute running times. So the project was doomed from the start. Hanks and Griffith just made sure it tanked.


The book? No one familiar with the City can deny Wolfe’s deft insight and devastating eye for detail. Fast forward:

Almost exactly a year ago, Tom Wolfe, the author of “The Bonfire of the Vanities,” was wandering the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Dressed in his trademark white suit, he darted around traders and whisked past trading booths, shaking hands and waving, just before the market was about to open.

It was a sunny, ebullient morning. The Dow stood at 13,337. Deals were zipping across the ticker: Barneys, the luxury retailer, was sold that morning to an investment arm of the Dubai government. Investment bankers were getting ready to take a half-day Friday and drive out to the Hamptons.

But the real excitement — the reason, traders whispered, that Mr. Wolfe must be in attendance — was that the Blackstone Group, the big private equity firm, was minutes away from going public, the largest initial public offering in the United States since 2002. (At the time, he told The New York Observer that a friend was giving him a tour.)

Just then, a CNBC reporter pulled Mr. Wolfe aside to ask him what he made of all the hubbub. Mr. Wolfe paused for a moment to contemplate his answer.

And then, with a wry smile, he delivered a prophetic declaration: “We may be witnessing the end of capitalism as we know it.”

Obviously, everyone there just needs to get with the program and chant, “Yes we can . . .” Or perhaps they can do an asset-backed deal and collateralize the non-public financing of Obama’s campaign. Obama’s law school notebooks have to be worth something . . .