Published: Wed, May 16, 2018
Global Media | By Jackie Banks

Tom Wolfe, Bonfire of the Vanities author, dies aged 87

Tom Wolfe, Bonfire of the Vanities author, dies aged 87

He coined expressions such as "radical chic", for rich liberals fascinated with revolutionaries, and the "me generation", which nailed the self-absorption of 1970s baby boomers. He first came to wide notice with the 1968 novel The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, an account of counterculture icon Ken Kesey and friends, aka the Merry Pranksters, traveling the country in their painted bus and the adventures they experienced. His novels "The Right Stuff" and "The Bonfire of the Vanities" both became major Hollywood films in 1983 and 1990 respectfully, Wolfe also wrote 1998's Almost Heroes with the late Chris Farley.

Wolfe, who produced nine non-fiction books from 1965 to 1981, had lived in New York since joining The New York Herald Tribune as a reporter in 1962.

"Tom Wolfe is a legend whose unique and innovative writing style changed the face of journalism, satire, and storytelling", said New York Public Library president Anthony W. Marx. Written in a wild free-association style that disregarded rules of punctuation, it was filled with sentence fragments and used words like "skakkkkkkkkkkkkkk" and "wowwwwwww". "He is irritating, but he did develop a new journalistic idiom that has brought relief from standard Middle-High Journalese".

"To be honest, I have only five more planned".

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In the collection Wolfe wrote, "The most important literature being written in America today is in nonfiction". That kindled rivalries with contemporaries Norman Mailer and John Updike, who Wolfe referred to as "two old piles of bones".

Wolfe's trademark was the white suit, often accessorised with a white hat and two-tone shoes.

Tom Wolfe had only one thing about him that was informal and unfussy in his later life, and that was his first name.

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