The White-suited Wizard Of 'new Journalism' Tom Wolfe Dies At 88 World News
Tom Wolfe, the white-suited wizard of "New Journalism" who exuberantly chronicled American culture from the Merry Pranksters through the space race before turning his satiric wit to such novels as "The Bonfire of the Vanities" and "A Man in Full", has died. He was 88.
Wolfe died on Monday of an unspecified infection in a New York City hospital, his agent, Lynn Nesbit, said in a phone interview on Tuesday. Further details were not immediately available.
Wolfe's works - fiction and non-fiction alike - looked at realms ranging from the art world to Wall Street to 1960s hippie culture and touched on the issues of class, power, race, corruption and sex.
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. Along with Gay Talese, Truman Capote and Nora Ephron, he helped demonstrate that journalism could offer the kinds of literary pleasure found in books.
His 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 liberals' fascination with revolutionaries; and the "Me" generation, defining the self-absorbed baby boomers of the 1970s.
Wolfe was both a literary upstart, sneering at the perceived stuffiness of the publishing establishment, and an old-school gentleman who went to the best schools and encouraged Michael Lewis and other younger writers. When attending promotional luncheons with fellow authors, he would make a point of reading their latest work.
"What I hope people know about him is that he was a sweet and generous man," Lewis, known for such books as "Moneyball" and "The Big Short", said. "Not just a great writer but a great soul. He didn't just help me to become a writer. He did it with pleasure."
Wolfe's work broke countless rules but was grounded in old-school journalism, in an obsessive attention to detail that began with his first reporting job and endured for decades. "Nothing fuels the imagination more than real facts do," he said in 1999. "As the saying goes, 'You can't make this stuff up.'" He lived in New York with his wife, Sheila. He had two children.