The Bonfire of the Vanities is a 1987 novel by Tom Wolfe. The story is a drama about ambition, racism, social class, politics, and greed in 1980s New York City and centers on four main characters: WASP bond trader Sherman McCoy, Jewish assistant district attorney Larry Kramer, British expatriate journalist Peter Fallow and black activist the Reverend Reginald Bacon.
The novel was originally conceived as a serial in the style of Charles Dickens' writings; it ran in 27 installments in Rolling Stone starting in 1984. Wolfe heavily revised it before it was published in book form. The novel was a bestseller and a phenomenal success, even in comparison with Wolfe's other books.
The title is a reference to the historical Bonfire of the Vanities, which happened in 1497 in Florence, Italy when the city was under the rule of the Dominican priest Girolamo Savonarola. The book's title is apparently a reference to the vanities of New York society of the 1980s and appears to also be influenced by Ecclesiastes. The phrase 'vanity of vanities, all is vanity' is from Ecclesiastes. Both Ecclesiastes and The Bonfire of the Vanities have similar themes involving the lack of control anyone has over...