A Man in Full

Eye peeps through hole in dust jacket
Charlie behind things in Atlanta.

After a slow start, Tom Wolfe builds A Man in Full into a riveting, multifaceted story that shatters into shards in the final chapter.

The central character is Charlie Crocker, a good ol’ boy who use his football prowess to get access to Atlanta’s wealthy elite where by salesmanship—which Charlie believes is synonymous with manhood—he built a commercial empire.

As the story opens, Charlie is in his sixties and in deep financial trouble.

Another story-line is about Conrad Hensley, an employee in one of Charlie’s warehouses, who is trying to raise himself by his bootstraps.

A third story-line is about Atlanta’s black mayor’s attempt to prevent racial incidents over rumors—no charges have been filed—that a black, Georgia Tech football player raped the daughter one of the city’s leading white establishment figures.

Wolfe is funny in an ugly, wise-cracking way. He ridicules Charlie for his lack of education and sophistication and mocks Charlie’s ex-wife for being hurt by people who cut her because she’s been replaced.

There’s no middle class in Wolfe’s picture. He contrasts blotches of poverty, prisons, and hopelessness with shimmering wealth, self-indulgence, and conspicuous consumption.

The world of A Man in Full is interesting to read but unpleasant to contemplate.

Book is bound so Charlie Crocker is behind everything
Front of dust jacket has a hole through which Charlie Crocker on the novel’s cover looks out.
A Man in Full by Tom Wolfe
Farrar, Straus, Giroux. ©1998. 742 p.
1998 bestseller #4; my grade: B+

©2020 Linda G. Aragoni

Semi-Tough: Thoroughly sixth grader humor

Three facts about Dan Jenkins’s 1972 bestseller Semi-Tough tell all you really need to know:

Football star sits with his girl, a beer, and his guitar.
This is how the Giants get ready for the Super Bowl.
  • The novel is about two teams facing off in the Super Bowl.
  • The author was a senior editor at Sports Illustrated at the time he wrote the novel.
  • A portion of the novel appeared in Playboy magazine prior to the book’s publication.

Semi-Tough‘s narrator is Billy Clyde Puckett, a running back (and running mouth) for the New York Giants.

His best pals are his teammate “Shake” Tiller and Shake’s girlfriend, model Barbara Jane Bookman. The three spent their childhood in the same Texas town. It would be incorrect to say they grew up there or anywhere else.

Billy Clyde has a book contract to keep a journal of events before and after the Super Bowl. That’s why he’s taking notes about players drinking and screwing in preparation for the Big Game.

Football fans say Semi-Tough is funny; personally, I’m just not that in to jokes about farting.

I did laugh at Shake’s philosophical observation, “There’s no heartbreak in life like losing the big game in high school,” but I don’t think he meant it to be funny.

Semi-Tough by Dan Jenkins
Atheneum, 1972. 307 p.
1972 bestseller #10 My grade: C-

© 2018 Linda Gorton Aragoni