Tom Wolfe: Poet laureate of humiliation
"Everybody . . . all of them . . . it's back to blood! Religion is dying . . . but everybody still has to believe in something . . . So my people, that leaves only our blood, the bloodlines that course through our very bodies, to unite us."
So ends the prologue of Back to Blood, Tom Wolfe's latest novel, his deconstruction of Miami. Like any good showman, Tom Wolfe includes his greatest hits in his new tour. Many of the Wolfe favourites are to be found: social gatherings, status anxiety, the feebleness of contemporary art, political posturing, the pimp roll, loamy loins and, of course, racial tension, because it's not how blood unites us but divides us that concerns Wolfe.
I met Wolfe long enough to shake his hand in Miami in 2004, when he was already sniffing around the city, enticed by its status as one of the fastest growing places in the US and its claim to have more immigrants than any other American city.
Very few novelists offer the sort of news service and forecasting that Wolfe provides. Literary novelists as a group like to look back. Wolfe isn't even that interested in the present; he's on the frontline because he's hoping to catch the future before it has happened.
For a man whose early work included The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby and Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers, the titles have become more prosaic and compact, yet Wolfe remains the anti-Hemingway: for him more is always more.