Published: Wed, May 16, 2018
Culture&Arts | By Hattie Nash

Tributes Pour In For Tom Wolfe

Tributes Pour In For Tom Wolfe

Tom Wolfe, a pioneering journalist and author, died Monday in Manhattan, and while the world mourns his passing, comfort can be taken from his memorable works that span almost half a century.

One of the genre's defining moments came when Wolfe was having trouble meeting a deadline for a 1964 magazine story on the hot-rod vehicle culture. It was an unlikely look for the man who had been most associated with the idea of "saturation journalism" and the break-out from the deadened metropolitan style of mid-century reportage. "We are incredibly saddened to hear about the passing of Tom Wolfe", his publisher Picador said. He became particularly influential when he endeavored into what was called New Journalism.

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"Everything that bloggers have done for journalism - and I personally think they've done a lot - Wolfe did it first, he did it 30 years earlier, and he did it better", novelist Rex Grossman told NPR.

His first work of fiction turned out to be his most famous, the bestseller The Bonfire of the Vanities, an epic satire on social class, ambition, racism, politics and greed in 1980s NY. The resulting bestseller, The Bonfire Of The Vanities, defined the late-1980s era of Wall Street ambition, power and money.

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Wolfe covered a range of topics in his prose, from Ken Kesey and the Beat Generation in the 1968 nonfiction book "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test" to Cuban immigrants in Miami in 2012 novel "Back to Blood".

Wolfe wrote a variety of fiction and nonfiction works over the course of his illustrious career. That kindled rivalries with contemporaries Norman Mailer and John Updike, who Wolfe referred to as "two old piles of bones". Along with Gay Talese, Truman Capote and Nora Ephron, he helped demonstrate that journalism could offer the kinds of literary pleasure found in books.

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A particular goad to many was that the writer not only liked to start spats but to wear them. He graduated Washington and Lee University, after he'd turned down Princeton University. He is survived by his wife Sheila, the cover designer for Harper's Magazine, his daughter Alexandra, and son Tommy.

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