Monday, January 14, 2013

Back to Blood, by Tom Wolfe

Tom Wolfe is an American treasure, a skilled writer who, with his critical, journalistic eye, colorfully describes and diagnoses American culture.  In his newest book, Back to Blood, he turns his eye to the quirky, multi-cultural hodgepodge that is Miami.  The story spans across Miami's spectrum, including the Cuban community, the black neighborhood of Overtown, the rich private islands, and the shifting relationships among them.

Wolfe readers will recognize many familiar themes and character types in Back to Blood.  When a Cuban cop assists in the rescue of a Cuban political refugee, resulting in the refugee's deportation, the Cuban community turns against the cop, as does his Cuban girlfriend, who is having an affair with her white boss, a psychiatrist.  The psychiatrist's specialty is treating wealthy patient's sexual addictions, but his own sexual addictions are on full display.  The psychiatrist's number one patient is a lover of modern art, and brings his doctor into the world of big money art shows.  The Russian art patrons he meets, however, might be involved in moving high-dollar fakes.

Back to Blood is fast-moving, light reading, but I found it to be a very satisfying read.  Wolfe's use of language, vivid descriptive passages, right-on dialogue, and sense of reality sucked me in; I found myself looking forward to the next time I could dive into the book.  All that said, I still felt like it was just a notch below some of Wolfe's great prior works.  It's definitely worth a read, not to be missed by Wolfe fans, and sure to be enjoyed by readers who discover him for the first time.

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