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New Journalism, The

In Cold Blood, Kandy Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby, The New Journalism

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is generally considered to have begun in the 1960s with the debate generated by the publication of Truman Capote's In Cold Blood (1965) and Tom Wolfe's Kandy Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby (1965). This debate focused on the new blending of literary technique with journalistic fact. Also referred to as the ‘nonfiction novelists’, these writers combined the ‘objective credibility’ of journalism with the subjective self-reflection of fiction, exploring meanings beyond the media-constructed ‘reality’. As Tom Wolfe described in his ‘manifesto’ The New Journalism (1973), exponents reacting against the assumed ‘objective’ perspective of orthodox journalism and its reliance on official, often hidden, sources, asserted that they needed to go beyond the constraints of conventional journalism in order to represent contemporary events. These writers were also partly reacting to the shocking events of the 1960s—political assassination, the Vietnam War, the moon-walk—as much as to the new media. Such works as Norman Mailer's Armies of the Night (1968), Of a Fire on the Moon (1970), and Executioner's Song (1979), Hunter S. Thompson's Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga (1967), Tom Wolfe's Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (1968), an account of the rise of the drug culture in California in the 1960s, and The Right Stuff (1979), and Michael Herr's Dispatches (1974) (see Vietnam Writing), exemplify the self-reflective movement from innocence to experience. These writers often ally themselves with the fictional work of writers like Thomas Pynchon, Kurt Vonnegut, Donald Barthelme, and others whose writing experiments suggest that modern ‘reality’ is so extraordinary and absurd that the methods of conventional realistic narration are no longer adequate. Other writers like Joan Didion, Mary McCarthy and her works on the Vietnam War, George Plimpton, Seymour Krim, and Gay Talese, also react against the pre-packaged, formulaic, and anonymously constructed journalistic methods. Other examples of ‘new journalism’ might include Robert Coover's The Public Burning (1977), and E. L. Doctorow's novels Welcome to Hard Times (1960), The Book of Daniel (1971), and Ragtime (1975).

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