Miami's Bloody Streets

By Moynihan, Michael | Newsweek, October 29, 2012 | Go to article overview

Miami's Bloody Streets


Moynihan, Michael, Newsweek


Byline: Michael Moynihan

Race, art, and crime seethe in Tom Wolfe's new novel.

Fourteen years ago, journalist Michael Lewis, reviewing Tom Wolfe's second novel, A Man in Full, noted the author's age and fretted, "My God, this one could be his last!" Well, not quite. At 81, Wolfe has returned with his fourth work of fiction, Back to Blood, an energetic and unflinching satire of "post-racial" America, viewed through the lens of the still-very-racial city of Miami.

Wolfe, who once self-identified as a "status theorist," has long obsessed over the shifting tectonic plates of social order, tribal affiliation, and class stratification in America. In his earlier years, Wolfe's journalism absorbed the milieus of hippies, astronauts, art curators, limousine liberals, and military men, ruthlessly mocking those who invited mockery. Twenty-five years after his debut novel, The Bonfire of the Vanities, satirized the state of race and class in 1980s New York, the city has been neutered by gentrification. In 21st-century America, Wolfe argues, it's Miami that's a bubbling cauldron of racial tension.

Back to Blood opens with policeman Nestor Camacho, an assimilated second-generation Cuban, saving the life of a Cuban refugee--and potentially guaranteeing his deportation to Havana--for which he is rejected by the exile community (his blood). This heroism precipitates two very different local headlines, which serve to underscore the city's divergent visions: one celebrates his valor (The Miami Herald); another questions his tribal loyalty (El Nuevo Herald). Indeed, in the course of his police work, Camacho ambles into a series of situations that threaten to ignite small-scale race wars.

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