The writer Tom Wolfe, who was instantly recognizable in his signature white suits, died on Monday in New York. He was 88. According to The Times obituary of Wolfe, “as an unabashed contrarian, he was almost as well known for his attire as his satire.” But his satire, and his journalism, truly was something. Indeed, he became famous for using “novelistic techniques in his nonfiction,” a hybrid that became known as the New Journalism. Here is a sampling of his work.
“The Kandy-Colored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby” (1965)
“Excellent book by a genius who will do anything to get attention,” wrote Kurt Vonnegut in his review.
“The Pump House Gang” (1968) and “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test” (1968)
On “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test,” our reviewer wrote, “it is not simply the best book on the hippies, it is the essential book.” And “The Pump House Gang” is described as “very good stuff, perceptive, horrifying, funny, perhaps exhausting all at once (but one doesn’t need to take it all at once).”
“The Painted Word” (1975)
Our headline summed it up best: “A reputedly clever man, an allegedly dismal book.”
“The Right Stuff” (1979)
“Wolfe’s voice, his mélange of technical jargon, test pilot shop-talk and whiz-bang hyperbole, is the perfect foil for the cool, laconic West Virginia drawl of those True Brothers in the cockpit.”
“Bonfire of the Vanities” (1987)
“A big, bitter, funny, craftily plotted book that grabs you by the lapels and won’t let go,” wrote Frank Conroy is his glowing assessment of Wolfe’s best-selling novel.
“I Am Charlotte Simmons” (2004)
“Like everything Wolfe writes, ‘I Am Charlotte Simmons’ grabs your interest at the outset and saps the desire to do anything else until you finish,” wrote Jacob Weisberg.
“The Kingdom of Speech” (2016)
“A short book by a big writer on a dull topic,” was Caitlin Flanagan’s verdict.