Author Tom Wolfe Dies at 88, Agent Says


Wolfe's agent confirmed his passing to ABC News, saying he died Monday in a Manhattan hospital after being admitted for an infection.

It's hard to imagine writing a tribute to Tom Wolfe without using all-caps and including a few (dozen) exclamation points.

Born in Richmond, Virginia, on March 2, 1930, Wolfe was a star baseball player at his high school and also edited its newspaper. He graduated from Washington and Lee University in 1951 and later received his Ph.D. from Yale University in 1957. Nine years later and in a more restrained style than some of his earlier works, he wrote "The Right Stuff" about the first seven USA astronauts and test pilot Chuck Yeager who came before them.

Tom Wolfe, who wrote bestselling novels like The Bonfire of the Vanities and The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and created the literary movement known as New Journalism, died this morning at the age of 87. His first novel, Bonfire of the Vanities, arrived in 1987, skewering the excesses of the money-hungry 1980s.

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In 1973, he published an essay collection helping to define New Journalism, with his writing placed alongside that of Truman Capote, Joan Didion and Hunter S Thompson.

He then moved to New York City, where he started at the New York Herald Tribune. "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test", an account of his reportorial travels in California with Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters as they spread the gospel of LSD, remains a classic chronicle of the counterculture, "still the best account - fictional or non, in print or on film - of the genesis of the sixties hipster subculture", press critic Jack Shafer wrote in the Columbia Journalism Review on the book's 40th anniversary. Once asked to describe his get-up, Mr. Wolfe replied brightly, "Neo-pretentious", according to The New York Times.

More recently, Wolfe published "I Am Charlotte Simmons" (2004) and "Back to Blood" (2013). He is survived by his wife Sheila, the cover designer for Harper's Magazine, his daughter Alexandra, and son Tommy. They had two children.