The New York Times is reporting that journalist and novelist Tom Wolfe passed away in Manhattan yesterday. He was 88 years old. Wolfe's stylish brand of New Journalism has been an unmistakable influence on generations of young reporters from the 1960s to today. I read pretty much all of Wolfe's nonfiction work growing up, and his rhythms and cadence runs so deep into me that I still unconsciously copy his tics all the time in my work. One of my favorite Wolfe passages is the rant about hemmorrhoids that opens his essay about the "Me" Decade for New York Magazine.
Maybe you haven't read Tom Wolfe, and maybe the tributes on the internet are convincing you that you should give him a try. Let me recommend a course of action: The latter half of Wolfe's career was spent on a series of gigantic satirical novels — The Bonfire of the Vanities, A Man in Full, I Am Charlotte Simmons — that were received to diminishing critical returns. If you're curious about Wolfe's work, I'd send you to his non-fiction titles first — The Painted Word, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, The Right Stuff — and then encourage you to try the novels (in chronological order from oldest to newest) if you really like what you find. Be advised that not all of his work has aged well, but that's true of pretty much all journalism. He was intensely of his time, and because he was intensely of his time, he is a writer who will shape the face of writing for decades yet to come.