Tom Wolfe, pioneering 'New Journalist,' dead at 87
NEW YORK (AP) — 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 87.
Wolfe's literary agent, Lynn Nesbit, told The Associated Press he died of an infection Monday in a New York City hospital. Further details were not immediately available.
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 expressions such as "radical chic" for rich liberals' fascination with revolutionaries; and the "Me" generation, defining the self-absorbed baby boomers of the 1970s.
"He was an incredible writer," Talese told the AP today. "And you couldn't imitate him. When people tried it was a disaster. They should have gotten a job at a butcher's shop."
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.