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Tom Wolfe (Tom Thomas Kennerly Wolfe) Biography

(1931– ), (Tom Thomas Kennerly Wolfe), The Washington Post, New York Herald Tribune

American journalist and novelist, born in Virginia, educated at Washington and Lee Universities and subsequently at Yale. He established a reputation, through his writing for The Washington Post and the New York Herald Tribune, as a satirist of contemporary American mores, and as an exponent of the ‘New Journalism’, which combined a relish for the absurdities of modern life with a vigorous, novelistic style. This reputation was consolidated by the publication of his first book, The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby (1965) and by the works which followed. These include: The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (1968), which chronicled the exploits of Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters; The Pump House Gang (1968), which contained satirical portraits of Marshall McLuhan and Hugh Hefner, amongst others; Radical Chic and Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers (1970), which mocked the naïve political posturing of New York intellectuals involved in fashionably radical causes such as the ‘Black Panther’ movement; and The New Journalism (1973). Other stories and journalistic sketches were contained in Mauve Gloves and Madmen, Clutter and Vine (1976), while The Painted Word (1975) and From Bauhaus to Our House (1981) satirized the pretensions of the art world and of modern architecture, respectively. The Right Stuff (1979), which was filmed, offered a blackly comic account of the US space race, in which the trainee astronauts are encouraged to regard themselves as superhuman and as therefore exempt from the restrictions of ordinary life. The same kind of fatal hubris is displayed by Sherman McCoy, the protagonist of Wolfe's first novel, The Bonfire of the Vanities (1987), which was also made into a film and which is set in New York City during the 1980s. The novel describes the comic-horrific downfall of its hero, after a hit-and-run accident in which he is involved results in his being arrested for murder, and provoked controversy as well as admiration for its scabrous vision of corruption and urban decay. Other works include In Our Time (1980), a collection of his drawings, and The Purple Decades (1982), a collection of twenty previously published essays.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Woking Surrey to Æ