The Bonfire of the Vanities is a 1987 novel by Tom Wolfe The story is a drama about ambition, racism, social class, politics, and greed in 1980s New York City featuring WASP bond trader Sherman McCoy, Jewish assistant district attorney Larry Kramer, British expatriate journalist Peter Fallow, and black activist the Reverend Reginald Bacon.
The novel was originally conceived as a serial in the style of Charles Dickens’ writings; it ran in 27 installments in Rolling Stone starting in 1984. Wolfe heavily revised it before it was published in book form. The novel was a bestseller and a phenomenal success, even in comparison with Wolfe's other books.
The story centers on Sherman McCoy, a wealthy New York City bond trader with a wife and young daughter. His life as a self-regarded "Master of The Universe" on Wall Street is destroyed when he and his mistress, Maria Ruskin, accidentally enter the Bronx at night while they are driving to Manhattan from Kennedy Airport
Maybe the movie was regarded as pathetic because the book was so good.