“Tom Wolfe, an innovative journalist and novelist whose technicolor, wildly punctuated prose brought to life the worlds of California surfers, car customizers, astronauts and Manhattan’s moneyed status-seekers in works like ‘The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby,’ ‘The Right Stuff’ and ‘Bonfire of the Vanities,’ died on Monday in a Manhattan hospital,” The New York Times reports.
Wolfe, who was 88, had been hospitalized with an infection, according to his agent, Lynn Nesbit. He had been living in New York since landing a reporting job with The New York Herald Tribune in 1962.
“In his use of novelistic techniques in his nonfiction, Mr. Wolfe, beginning in the 1960s, helped create the enormously influential hybrid known as the New Journalism,” The Times reports. “But as an unabashed contrarian, he was almost as well known for his attire as his satire. He was instantly recognizable as he strolled down Madison Avenue — a tall, slender, blue-eyed, still boyish-looking man in his spotless three-piece vanilla bespoke suit, pinstriped silk shirt with a starched white high collar, bright handkerchief peeking from his breast pocket, watch on a fob, faux spats and white shoes. Once asked to describe his get-up, Mr. Wolfe replied brightly, ‘Neo-pretentious.’”
Wolfe is credited with contributing terms such as “Radical Chic” and “the Me Decade” to American vernacular.
“His talent as a writer and caricaturist was evident from the start in his verbal pyrotechnics and perfect mimicry of speech patterns, his meticulous reporting, and his creative use of pop language and explosive punctuation,” The Times notes.
The report quotes William F. Buckley Jr., commenting on Wolfe in the National Review, writing: “He is probably the most skillful writer in America — I mean by that he can do more things with words than anyone else.”