Road Trip Stops in Atlanta, Georgia

The Great American Road Trip

Atlanta Midtown

Destination: Atlanta, Georgia

Book: A Man in Full by Tom Wolfe (1998)

Tom Wolfe is not only a writer, but he plays one on T.V. Dressed in a white linen suit and white homburg hat, he chats amiably–those perfect southern manners on display, of course. And I will happily read anything he has written. So although he actually hails from Richmond Virignia, I’ve picked his book A Man in Full, which is set in Atlanta, Georgia for our road trip travel plans to that state.

Wolfe took his newspaper reporter’s eye for the telling detail and moved on to book-length discourses on icons of American culture–Manhattan lefty socialites and American racism (Radical Chic and Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers), Hippies (The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test) astronauts (The Right Stuff), among the titles that added to the American vocabulary. And his work set a standard for a new school of non-fiction: The New Journalism. Who can hear “the right stuff” without thinking of the astronaut culture? And Radical Chic became the perfect put down for the faux-sincere backer of causes. He moved into fiction with a novel that pinned to the wall the finance industry, Bonfire of the Vanities, written LO-O-O-NG before our present banking crisis. Then he took on his own region– the modern South and its class and race friction hidden under a veneer of politeness and its focus on doing bid-ness A Man in Full.

Tom Wolfe lays his characters out on the table and slices them open with a sharp wit–laying bare every foible and pretense. And in A Man in Full, he not only paints sharp portraits of a vast array of human characters, but also slices and dices the city of Atlanta, symbol of the modern South.

The book is long and the plot is complex, but nothing Wolfe every writes is ponderous.  His individual sentences and phrases are delights. It takes him a long time to shape a book, and if you pause to ponder as you read the perfect word choices you will understand why.  He is in his eighties now and some doubt that he has enough time to finish a final work because of his meticulous approach–not because of any lack of energy.

If you need proof of his still lively, sharp mind, read this article printed about a year ago in the New York Times about NASA.

If you have never read Tom Wolfe, take a look at one of his books. If you want to know how a born and bred southerner sees the new South, and you’re ready to visit that most un-typical part of Georgia on your own road trip, read his novel set in Atlanta, A Man in Full. It’s a peach. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

Tom Wolfe

Charlie Rose interviews Tom Wolfe and you can see a copy on the Tom Wolfe website . Charlie Rose talks a bit too much in this half-hour show, but it gives you a good view of Tom Wolfe, nevertheless.

The portrait of Tom Wolfe, is filched from his publisher’s web site. The gorgeous picture of Atlanta at night above is from Flickr compliments of Creative Commons license. Please click on the picture to see more of that photographer’s work. Good stuff!

Don’t forget to pick up your road trip music over at Music Road. Kerry wrote last week about music for the two states, South Carolina and Georgia.

To begin at the beginning, you can go back to Blue Highways, or to start the trip south, see Virginia. And please, don’t miss any of the Road Trip,or the other travels at A Traveler’s Library. Subscribe! you now have three ways to follow along–

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Are you already a Tom Wolfe fan? Tell me what you’ve read, and how you like the “New Journalism” style. I’d love to have a conversation about one of my favorite authors. Alabama is coming up–suggestions??

About Vera Marie Badertscher

A freelance writer who loves to travel. When she is not traveling she is reading about travel. When she is not reading or traveling, she is sharing with the readers of A Traveler's Library, recreating her family's past at Ancestors In Aprons . She writes frequently for Reel Life With Jane and other websites. Also co-author of a biography, Quincy Tahoma, The Life and Legacy of a Navajo Artist. Contact Vera Marie by e-mail.

12 thoughts on “Road Trip Stops in Atlanta, Georgia

  1. Since I was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia (which is not un-typical Georgia), it’s about time that I joined this conversation. Personally, I don’t care much for Tom Wolfe but now I’m going to have to read the book to see if he got Atlanta right.
    You might want to read Anne Rivers Siddons, an Atlanta author who has written about Atlanta, the South and also Maine.

  2. I’ve never read a Tom Wolfe book but sounds like he offers rich descriptions and deep characters. Time to visit the library.

  3. So many books, so little time to read. *sigh* I will be adding the above suggested title to my reading list. Most definitely. 😉

    Lovely photo!


  4. Like others, I think I’m convinced to pick up Tom Wolfe’s book. I haven’t been to Atlanta in years, but this makes me want to head south.

  5. Gorgeous photo of Atlanta skyline. I had no idea it looked like that. Not a Tom Wolfe fan either, but you almost convinced me to read A Man in Full ….

  6. I have been looking forward to the Road Trip making it to Georgia because we have so many great towns here and so many great writers. I tried to guess what book or movie you would pick to highlight my home state. I half expected you to go with Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. But I have to admit I was surprised and disappointed to see Tom Wolfe featured. Even though he was born in Virginia he’s lived in New York for what, 40 years? If you really want to get a feel for Georgia and read some great books may I suggest Alice Walker, James Dickey, Carson McCullers, and Terry Kay. I am currently reading To Dance with the White Dog by Terry Kay which is set outside Athens, Ga around 1972. I highly recommend it. And if you have a chance to visit Georgia please make a point to include my hometown of Athens in your journey. We’d love to show you our Georgia.

    1. Let this comment be a warning to all whose states have not yet been visited. When you don’t advise me, I may go astray. :-)
      Honestly, Marie, I value your comments, and have been waiting for somebody to be seriously irritated with a choice of book that I made, since every state harbors 200 years worth of excellent writers and every state has geography that cannot be covered in the pages of one book. But as far as the fact that Wolfe is not FROM Georgia, I must point out that being native to the state has never been a requirement–only that the book (or movie) paints a credible picture of some part of the state.
      During the road trip, I’ve found that I would have to immediately set out on another, and another and another trip to scratch the surface of the wealth of literature that reflects place in the United States. (Your book suggestions are being added to my list, particularly White Dog, that I don’t know. And I wouldn’t want to miss Athens!

  7. Okay, so if you and Melanie (AKA Frugal Kiwi) both LOVE Tom Wolfe maybe I’m missing something? I tried to read Bonfire of the Vanities and couldn’t get through it … years ago. Which novel should I try again with?

    1. I think you should start with The Right Stuff (start with a non-fiction if you had trouble with the fiction). And by the way, I think Wolfe is a lot like Dickens in his novels–huge cast of characters, language reflecting his time, details of life….

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