Tom Wolfe, innovative journalist and author, dead at 87

The author died at a Manhattan hospital on Monday after being hospitalized with an infection, The Guardian reports.

Wolfe's works - fiction and non-fiction alike - looked at realms ranging from the art world to Wall Street to 1960s hippie culture and touched on the issues of class, power, race, corruption and sex.

Wolfe was well known for being a stylish dresser, often photographed in his trademark white suit.

His agent told The Wall Street Journal: "He is not just an American icon, but he had a huge worldwide literary reputation".

In the collection Wolfe wrote, "The most important literature being written in America today is in nonfiction". As aforementioned, he died in New York City, where he had lived since starting work as a reporter for the New York Herald Tribune in 1962.

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"The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test", zeroed in on the counterculture. He had a pitiless eye and a penchant for spotting trends and then giving them names, some of which - like "Radical Chic" and "the Me Decade" - became American idioms.

From 1965 to 1981, Wolfe produced nine nonfiction books.

Despite earning a Ph.D., Wolfe set out on a career in journalism, working as a reporter at the Springfield Union in MA and later at The Washington Post.

Wolfe didn't begin his novels with a character and a plot so much as an idea, Tom Vitale of NPR explained. "I carried a copy of Electric Acid Kool-aid Test with me throughout high school, dazzled by the idea that you could really write like that about real things". Since childhood, Tom Wolfe dreamed of becoming a writer. It's part of what made his books catnip for Hollywood producers; four of them, including The Last American Hero, The Right Stuff, The Bonfire of the Vanities, and Almost Heroes, were turned into major films. For Wolfe, the techniques a writer used in fiction and nonfiction were interchangeable, and he proved that assumption repeatedly with a host of captivating essays in magazines like The New Yorker, Esquire, and Harper's. He was 88 years old.

Wolfe is survived by his wife, Sheila, and his children, Alexandra and Tommy.

  • Megan Austin