17 May 2018 - Tom Wolfe dies aged 88
Tom Wolfe, journalist and author of Bonfire of the Vanities, dies aged 88
Sian Cain and Jake Nevins (The Guardian, 16/05/2018)
Tom Wolfe, the essayist, journalist and author of bestselling books including The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and Bonfire of the Vanities, has died in New York at the age of 88.
Wolfe died in a Manhattan hospital on Monday, his agent confirmed on Tuesday. He had been hospitalised with an infection.
With his literary flair and habit of placing himself as a character in his nonfiction writing, Wolfe was regarded as one of the pioneers of New Journalism. Works like the 1965 essay collection The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby, 1968’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test – a firsthand account of the growing hippy movement, particularly novelist Ken Kesey’s experiments with psychedelic drugs – and 1979’s The Right Stuff – an account of the pilots who would become America’s first astronauts – established Wolfe as the face of a new style of reportage that could be read for pleasure. He even helped define the term New Journalism – with his publication of a 1973 essay collection of the same name, which placed his own writing alongside the likes of Truman Capote, Joan Didion, Gay Talese and Hunter S Thompson.
Tom Wolfe, 1931 to 2018: ‘The Bonfire of the Vanities’ Author’s 1986 Essay on the Statue of Liberty
Tom Wolfe (Newsweek, 15/05/2018)
Tom Wolfe, the best-selling novelist and pioneer of New Journalism, has died at 88. He wrote for Newsweek numerous times throughout his career, including in 1986, on the occasion of the Statue of Liberty's 100th birthday celebration. This piece—in which Wolfe reflects on the statue's centennial and reports on the 1985 unveiling of the Portlandia sculpture in Portland, Oregon—ran in Newsweek on July 14, 1986.
Getting the Ending Out of Tom Wolfe
Paul Elie (The New Yorker, 16/05/2018)
Even after Tom Wolfe came to be recognized as a novelist through the success of “The Bonfire of the Vanities,” he remained a journalist in one respect: the way to get him to finish a piece of writing was to give him a deadline.
I found this out during the run-up to the publication of his second novel, “A Man in Full,” in the summer of 1998. When I got involved—as an associate editor with his publisher, Farrar, Straus & Giroux—all the hard work had been done. To sign up the book, Roger Straus had agreed to part with a sum worthy of the follow-up to “Bonfire.” Jonathan Galassi, the editor-in-chief and the book’s editor, reading draft after draft, had made a crucial intervention: when Wolfe mused aloud that maybe he should set the novel in Atlanta rather than New York, Galassi replied, “Maybe you should.” Lynn Nesbit had sold rights all over the world; Jann Wenner had enabled Wolfe to make a few reporting trips in his Gulfstream jet. The titles “Mayflies” and “Red Dogs” had been scrapped, and the protagonist’s name changed to dodge a lawsuit; an elaborate die-cut jacket had been approved; a Vanity Fair profile had been arranged; publication had been set for a certain date in November, and launch events scheduled in Atlanta and in New York, where the ballroom of the Sherry-Netherland Hotel, on Fifth Avenue, was reserved for a weeknight in high social season. All set—except for one thing. Straus, who had published Wolfe for three decades, summed it up: “Now all he has to do is finish the fucker!”
Where have you gone, Tom Wolfe?
Daniel W. Drezner (The Washington Post, 16/05/2018)
The most useful classes I took in college were not in politics or economics but in creative writing. My professor schooled us in the ways of Raymond Carver. I endeavored to write the sparest prose imaginable. This was a very useful skill in graduate school; the value of clear writing applies with equal force to nonfiction.
Tom Wolfe, who passed away Tuesday, was not spare with his prose. But my, oh, my, he made his points clearly. According to Ben Zimmer of The Atlantic: “Wolfe’s contributions to the English language go far beyond the most obvious catchphrases that he popularized. The Oxford English Dictionary includes about 150 quotations from Wolfe’s writings, and in many cases, he is the earliest known source for words and phrases that have worked their way into the lexicon.”
The highest compliment I can pay Wolfe is that it was only after reading Bill Morris in The Daily Beast that I learned Wolfe had earned a PhD in American studies from Yale. By which I mean, Wolfe did not write like someone who had spent time in grad school. As I noted in “The Ideas Industry,” graduate school can take the best writers and turn them into jargon-spouting automatons.