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The American writer Tom Wolfe, who brought such phrases as “the right stuff”, “radical chic”, and “the me generation” , into American parlance, has died in New York this week at the age of 88 years old. Mr. Wolfe was in the hospital for treatment for an infection. His death on May 14th, was announced by his long-time representative, New York literary legend Lynn Nesbit.
Wolfe was an amazingly productive writer with a pulsating, dynamic, high-speed writing style that merged expert wordplay and exhaustive research with sociological commentary and writing techniques used in novels to produce a new style of writing known as “the new journalism”. Wolfe’s contemporaries in this movement included Truman Capote, Hunter S. Thompson (the father of Gonzo journalism–more about that later), Norman Mailer, Jimmy Breslin, and Gay Talese. Wolfe’s breakout onto the national/international writing scene started with sharply observant non-fiction sociologically-based pieces, published first by The New York Herald, and later by Esquire (edited by the visionary Byron Dobell) and then New York Magazine. One of his early publishers was the publishing wizard Clay Felker, generally credited with creating the concept of “the city magazine”, an idea he developed out of the Sunday supplement published by The New York Herald and developed into New York magazine. Starting with shorter non-fiction pieces, Wolfe transitioned into larger works (including the great non-fiction work, “The Right Stuff”, about the first American Astronauts) and ultimately into fiction, with major best sellers “The Bonfire of the Vanities” and “A Man in Full”. Wolfe influenced a generation of new writers (including this one) and contributed a rich and diverse selection of books, magazine pieces, and novels to American literary history. Please read The New York Times very detailed obituary of Tom Wolfe to get a full measure of the importance and vibrancy of the man and his work. His voice will be missed.