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I finished reading this novel this summer in Brasil, and to be honest, I was blown away. It's such an amazing study of a time and place, sardonic, by turns honest and deeply deceitful, tragi-comic, and above all insightful. I've never read an author(except for maybe Douglas Adams or Kurt Vonnegut, who are more absurdist) who so perfectly skewer the foolishness and pretense of a society.

My edition was a "Norton Critical", which is well-footnoted(and believe me, you NEEDED the notes), and some of the reviews found that the book was "deeply troubling" in its depiction of blacks(the mulatto Ms. Swartz), Jews, and other "undesirables" of the 19th century. I couldn't see that the book was all that virulently racist, certainly not in comparison to, say, the depiction of Creole women in Jane Eyre or other contemporary literature. Why then is Vanity fair so known for being "racist?"

Finally, the book has a lot of funny commentary about clothes - how it signifies social status, importance, and what a vast concern being fashionable and correct were. From blockade-runners taking fashions from Paris to London in the midst of the Napoleonic wars, to people living on "nothing a year" going in debt to their tailors,to the vanity of fashion itself, I think it ought to be required reading for advanced SFers.

Thoughts? Other readers? I've been writing a lots of papers recently and am in a literary mood.