Tom Wolfe, pioneering New Journalist, prolific author and white-suited dandy, stands among the most iconic writers—and unexpected fashion trendsetters—of the past half-century. Mr. Wolfe was one of the leading figures in the New Journalism movement of the ’60s and ’70s, whose infusion of literary techniques with objective reportage laid the groundwork for contemporary magazine writing as we know it. Over the years, he would become a significant cultural figure in his own right, with zeitgeist-y works like The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, which chronicled Ken Kesey and the rise of the LSD movement, as well as his many essays, hitting the hot-button social and cultural issues of the moment.
His first novel, The Bonfire of the Vanities, hit New York right about the same time as The Observer. Bonfire is a sprawling satire that captures the breadth and multiplicity of city life, and is pitch-perfect in its encapsulation of the class and racial turmoil that defined ’80s New York. Mr. Wolfe’s ability to combine minutely reported social observations with uniquely vibrant poetic language, while convincingly depicting the entire social spectrum—from Merry Pranksters to Masters of the Universe—makes him a unique force in the American literary landscape. His language shaped our landscape. He brought to life a New York in which bankers, “hemorrhaging money,” struggle to make ends meet on a million a year. Husbands everywhere remember not to ask for Maria when they call home.
The inveterate Manhattanite’s novels are enduring portraits of American life and culture, making the man in the white suit a leading chronicler and interpreter of contemporary life in both fiction and journalism.