Critics recognised the virtuosity of the prose but also, in the stereotypes and the gleeful trampling on taboos, an illiberal malice. America's cognoscenti has since treated Wolfe as somehow below stairs: a shock jock with a poet's command of the language.
Read now, however, the book has more to say about 2017 than anything written of late. There are the obvious thematic echoes - the besieged rich, racial panics - but also one that Wolfe might never have intended. Bonfire can be read as a book about two different kinds of elite. You might characterise them as the moneyed and the cultured. Or as private enterprise and public life.
The story centres on a successful bond trader called Sherman McCoy and a jaded reporter, Peter Fallow, who needs a career-saver of a scoop. A car incident, with a black victim, entwines them. By the end, the Wall Street man is ruined and the journalist has both a Pulitzer Prize and an heiress wife. In the Wolfean style, both characters are crude cartoons of their tribe. But they represent a real split among urbanites, who are too often grouped together. It is one that has been lost in the negative obsession with the elite in recent years. Think of it as the difference between the two LSEs - the London Stock Exchange and the London School of Economics - or the stereotypical FT reader and the stereotypical FT writer.
When populists attack elites, they conflate people who work in the media, the arts, politics, academia and some areas of the law with entrepreneurs, investment bankers and internationally mobile corporate professionals. The Brexit campaign defined itself against high finance but also against human rights QCs and know-it-all actors - as if these fields were one.