The title is a reference to the historical Bonfire of the Vanities, which happened in 1497 in Florence, Italy, when the city was under the rule of the Dominican priest Girolamo Savonarola. The book's title is evidently a reference to the vanities of New York society of the 1980s and appears to also be influenced by Ecclesiastes: the phrase 'vanity of vanities, all is vanity' is from Ecclesiastes, 1:2. Both Ecclesiastes and The Bonfire of the Vanities have similar themes involving the lack of control anyone has over their lives regardless of their wealth, wisdom, or success.
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