Author Tom Wolfe Dead at 88

He wrote 'Bonfire of the Vanities,' 'The Right Stuff,' was pioneer of New Journalism
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 15, 2018 10:25 AM CDT
Author Tom Wolfe Dead at 87
This 2012 image released by Little, Brown and Company shows author Tom Wolfe.   (AP Photo/Little, Brown and Company, Mark Seliger)

(Newser) – Tom Wolfe, author of works including The Right Stuff, the Bonfire of the Vanities, and A Man in Full has died in Manhattan at age 88, reports the New York Times. The cause of death was unclear, but Wolfe had been recently hospitalized for an infection. In addition to his works of fiction, Wolfe became known as a pioneer in the field known as New Journalism, in which he employed "novelistic techniques" in nonfiction pieces, reports the Times. An acolyte of French novelist Emile Zola and other authors of "realistic" fiction, the stylishly attired Wolfe was an American maverick who insisted that the only way to tell a great story was to go out and report it, per the AP. Along with Gay Talese, Truman Capote, and Nora Ephron, he helped demonstrate that journalism could offer the kinds of literary pleasure found in books.

Wolfe's hyperbolic, stylized writing work was a gleeful fusillade of exclamation points, italics, and improbable words. An ingenious phrase maker, he helped brand such expressions as "radical chic" for rich liberals' fascination with revolutionaries; and the "Me" generation, defining the self-absorbed baby boomers of the 1970s. One panel of experts, listing the best journalism of the century, cited Wolfe three times on its list of 100, for The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby, and The Right Stuff. Whether sending up the New York art world or hanging out with acid heads, Wolfe inevitably presented man as a status-seeking animal, concerned above all about the opinion of one's peers. "My contention is that status is on everybody's mind all of the time, whether they're conscious of it or not," Wolfe said in 2012. (Read more Tom Wolfe stories.)

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