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Tom Wolfe’s Most Tom Wolfe-ian Sentences from “Back to Blood”

The prolix novelist is in fine, word-slinging form in his new book

Novelist/journalist Tom Wolfe has never met a sentence he couldn’t apply his literary jazz hands to and liven up with sound effects or italics or extend into a dizzy page-spanning thought sponge that expands and grows and swells and and grows and expands and…..(now this writer is doing it too — reading Wolfe has that effect). 

In his new novel, Back to Blood, his first since 2004’s I Am Charlotte Simmons, the writer is in fine form, no doubt because he’s  stored up eight years of clauses and adjectives and onomatopoetic words to string together into an epic lingual crazy fruit salad. In fact, so abundant are the noisemaking devices that there’s probably no need to buy the audiobook version. (BTW: The book is a fun read – except for the cringe-inducing sex scenes, of which there are too many – and offers a lively depiction of multi-ethnic, multi-national Miami, but it’s no Bonfire.

Here, for your literary and auditory and pleasure, are 5 of Tom Wolfe’s most Tom Wolfe-ian sentences from Back to Blood. Consider it as just an amuse bouche—the book has plenty more. Hint: If, afterward, you can’t get rid of the BEAT-unngh thung in your head, just close your eyes and think of Hemingway. 


SMACK the Safe Boat bounces airborne comes down again SMACK on another swell in the bay bouncers up again comes down SMACK on another swell and SMACK bounces airborne with emergency horns police Crazy Lights exploding SMACK in a demented sequence on the roof SMACK but Officer Nestor Camacho’s fellow SMACK cops here in the cockpit the two fat SMACK americanos they love this stuff love it love driving the boat SMACK throttle wide open forty-five miles an hour against the wind SMACK bouncing bouncing its shallow aluminum hull SMACK from swell SMACK to swell SMACK to swell SMACK toward the mouth of Biscayne Bay to “see about the man on top of the mast “SMACK” up near the Rickenbacker Causeway”—


The cheering from the tethered boats rose up in a primal scream not from the heart but from the groin, feral whooops, woo-woo-wooooos, hoot hoot hooooots, arrrrghs, ah haaahhsarrrghhHHHock hock hock—that last rut roar unmistakably Norman’s…


The moment the leader and his orangeade-faced follower entered, BEAT-unngh thung BEAT-unngh thung BEAT-unngh thung BEAT-unngh thung began BEATING and thunging into their central nervous systems. It wasn’t a fast beat BEAT-unngh thung and not terribly loud, but it was relentless. It never changed and never stopped going BEAT-unngh thung BEAT-unngh thung


Norman had now steered the cigarette boat deep into the regatta’s helter-skelter and was trolling slowly, ever so slowly, with the thousand-horsepower engines growling growling growling growling ever so slowly slowly slowly…around this boat…between those two…along the lineups of boats tethered together side by side, closely, ever so closely…looking up at the people who were dancing and drinking and squealing and laughing laughing laughing laughing—we’re here we’re here where things are happening! happening! happening! to the beat—always the beat—of octophonic speakers electo-thunging out beats, beats, repro-beats, and the singers, always girls, became nothing more than best themselves…no melody…only reprobeats…stringed bass, drums, beat-girls…


The show was over, but the americanos, like Norman, were inflamed by lust. Their hands trembled and they had serious trouble trying to text on their smart phones’ tiny keys. Their phones were ringing in a dysphony of “Hips Don’t Lie,” “On the Floor,” “Wild Ones,” Rihanna, Madonna, Shakira, Flo Rida, recorded laughing jags, whistled Brazilian salsas, all of them riddled by the abrupt beep beep beeps and alert alert alerts of incoming TEXTS thung TEXTS thung BEAT thung HUMP thung THRUST thung BEAT thung DANCING thung AGAIN thung the DECK thung DECK thung INFLAMED thung LUST thung LUST WHOOP WHOOP! WOO-WOO!—and all at once togged mund* is mad to reach another deck…down that way! Norman grabs Magdalena by the forearm and is pulling her, dragging her, into the stampede. Such commotion—

[NOTE FROM DUJOUR: * I think this phrase is a typo from the galley and should be todo el mundo ]