Arts&Culture

Tom Wolfe, Author of 'The Bonfire of the Vanities', Dies at 87

Tom Wolfe, Author of 'The Bonfire of the Vanities', Dies at 87

Tom Wolfe, the nattily dressed and prolific writer who penned The Right Stuff, one of the best adventure books of all time, died on Monday after being admitted to a New York City hospital with an infection. The film version of "The Right Stuff", about the Mercury Seven astronauts, was directed by Philip Kaufman in 1983.

By then, he had earned wide acclaim for a number of ground-breaking books, including "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test", in which he chronicled the psychedelic exploits of Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters as they gobbled LSD and rode a bus across the country and cavorting with counterculture luminaries such as the Grateful Dead (known then as The Warlocks), Allen Ginsberg and Neal Cassady. Although his articles and books placed him at the very...

Wolfe began his writing career as a reporter, and helped pioneer the 1960s movement called New Journalism, a form that adopted novelistic techniques for news.

The "new journalism" reporter and novelist insisted that the only way to tell a great story was to go out and report it. These, too, were part of Wolfe's style.

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The editor of the New York Times described Wolfe's passing as the "passing of an era".

"The right stuff" described the intangible characteristics of the first United States astronauts and test pilots. In 1987, Wolfe published "The Bonfire of the Vanities", a novel that also later became a film.

Wolfe said that day, "If there is anyone among you who has an explanation for why - what are we here for, what is this struggle called life all about - [and] if you can hear my voice at this moment, do it". Wolfe was instantly recognizable in his trademark white suit, which he started wearing nearly year round in 1962.

Born in Virginia in 1930, Wolfe achieved national prominence covering the rise of hippie culture in a freeform, hyperbolic style free of dispassionate journalistic conventions that would become known as New Journalism. He graduated Washington and Lee University, after he'd turned down Princeton University.