Author Tom Wolfe dead at 87

Pearl Mccarthy
May 17, 2018

Author Tom Wolfe, whose novels The Right Stuff and The Bonfire of the Vanities were made into feature films, has died at age 88.

The writer died of an infection in a hospital in NY on Monday, his agent Lynn Nesbit told The Associated Press.

He was present at the birth of what was known as "new journalism", a loose style that featured lots of dialogue and detail and allowed reporters to narrate and develop characters in a way more often associated with fiction.

He was instantly recognisable 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.

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Born in Richmond, Virginia, on March 2, 1930, Wolfe was a star baseball player at his high school and also edited its newspaper. He moved to New York join the New York Herald-Tribune in in 1962.

The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (1968) chronicled the rise of the hippy generation, while Radical Chic (1970) mocked the pretensions of Manhattan liberals and The Painted Word (1975) those of the art world. Nine years later and in a more restrained style than some of his earlier works, he wrote The Right Stuff about the first seven United States astronauts and test pilot Chuck Yeager who came before them. The book was made into the 1983 film of the same name, which was directed by Philip Kaufman.

His first work of fiction turned out to be his most famous, the bestseller The Bonfire of the Vanities, an epic satire on social class, ambition, racism, politics and greed in 1980s NY. It was also adapted for the big screen by director Brian De Palma.

In 2016, Wolfe published his last book, "The Kingdom of Speech", which sought to challenge society's understanding of Darwinism. He is survived by his wife Sheila, and their two children, Alexandra and Tommy.

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