From ‘Acid’ to ‘Bonfire,’ an Archive That Sizzles

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tags: New York Public Library, Tom Wolfe



In March 1988, when Tom Wolfe’s “The Bonfire of the Vanities” was parked at the top of the best-seller list, 962 Fifth Avenue was known to seemingly everyone as the gilded home of the mistress of Sherman McCoy, the book’s high-living investment banker protagonist.

Everyone, that is, except a woman lucky — or unlucky — enough to have just bought an apartment there.

“As a very private person who wishes to remain that way and who has no taste whatsoever for the kinds of flashy lifestyles which you describe,” the woman wrote in a letter to Mr. Wolfe, “I am embarrassed and ashamed when friends gleefully inform us that our new address is in your book and has become a rather notorious one.”

Next time around, she asked, couldn’t he take steps to avoid harming another “unsuspecting person”?

The letter — one of more than 10,000 in the Wolfe archive, which the New York Public Library agreed to acquire last November for $2.15 million — may be one of the odder complaints in the history of Manhattan real estate angst (and not just because the address technically no longer existed, having been rolled into that of the grand limestone pile at 960 Fifth).




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