A Man In Full was my first Tom Wolfe novel. It had been on my Must Read list for a few years and, when Tom Wolfe died, I finally ordered a copy.
It’s a beautifully observed, beautifully written book that shows you its worlds through the eyes of each character, immersing you in their perceptions and prejudices.
It is often referenced because of its use of Stoic philosophy and that seems to come on two levels.
There’s the slap-in-the-face-obvious storyline of a man in his hour of darkest need, who comes across a Magic Book. The constant references thereafter to Zeus play to this surface reading, so I guess that may have been Wolfe’s intent.
However, at a more interesting and subtle level, all of the main characters go through something of a Stoic revelation. In each arc, we see and experience their own version of “being a man”, from former football hero and real-estate mogul Charlie Croker’s trophy-wifed, quail-hunting, plantation-owning, machismo, through Roger White’s educated, elegant, professional career, to young Conrad’s desperation to provide for his family. As the story progresses, each evolves a different – and perhaps more Stoic – view of what it means to be a “man in full”.
I enjoyed it enormously, yet I came away feeling slightly let down by the final 100 pages or so (of 740). They felt rushed and, I suppose, I wanted a slightly different ending.
That said, it’s well worth a read over the summer.