Writing a brilliant passage has a drawback: it makes the more pedestrian lines in a book even more pedestrian. That Wolfe's editor let him down is not surprising (no one in the publishing world has the cojones to tap a titan on the shoulder and say uh-uh) but it's odd that Wolfe himself hasn't perceived the vast stretches of prose that don't contribute much or anything to the work.
The bed scene between Magdalena and a Russian oligarch is not only irrelevant but almost reads like a Harold Robbins novel (and Wolfe has already won one Bad Sex award). Similarly the girly exchanges between Magdalena and her flatmate are way over length, and the extensive family life of Nestor doesn't justify the space. The whole tome could shed a hundred pages and be much stronger for it. And the irony is that it's the blasts of genius that show up the filler.
At his best, and he's very much at his best in most of Back to Blood, there's no one as good as Wolfe. For bringing the world, or at least a world, to the page, Wolfe is the boss. Balzac, plus laughs. Roth, DeLillo, Ford, the other contenders, whatever their accomplishments, just look a bit lacklustre or limited in comparison. Wolfe's ambition, his imagination, his power, his eye, his ear, his spunk, his vocabulary are unmatched. I'd maintain that Wolfe is the greatest living writer in the English language, and I bow before a master.