The great Tom Wolfe passed…Jesus, two days ago and I’m only just getting around to this. The festival demands. And I still haven’t time to really sink into the sprawling legend of it all. Wolfe was one of the sharpest and most dashing literary figures of the 20th Century, and the very personification of ’60s and ’70s New Journalism. His spry, crafty, cranked-up prose, and the often astonishing wit and energy that he poured into his profiles and reportage…if you stepped back and considered his impact it just took your breath away.
Wolfe’s was quite the tale, going all the way back to his New York Herald Tribune pieces that began in ’62 or thereabouts. A stream of titles pouring out of my head right now: “Tiny Mummies”, “The Painted Word”, “The Truest Sport:” Jousting With Sam and Charlie”, “The Me Decade and the Third Great Awakening”, “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test”, “Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers”, “The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby”, “The Right Stuff”, “The Bonfire of the Vanities”, etc.
For those who’ve never read Wolfe or who only know him as the author of a celebrated book that resulted in the worst film Brian DePalma ever made, please start with these:
(c) “The Painted Word”
(d) “The Me Decade and the Third Great Awakening” (also in “Mauve Gloves“).
A New Yorker remembrance by Adam Gopnik, “Remembering Tom Wolfe, One of the Central Makers of Modern American Prose.”