Tom Wolfe Has Died at 88

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Trailblazing author and journalist Tom Wolfe, known for his impressionistic prose and dapper three-piece white suits, has died at age 88*. In addition to a storied magazine writing career, Wolfe was the author of a series of generation-defining novels and works of nonfiction, including The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby, The Right Stuff, and Bonfire of the Vanities.

Wolfe started out as newspaper reporter for the Washington Post and New York Herald Tribune — of which New York was initially a Sunday supplement — where he pioneered the form known as “New Journalism,” a writing style that incorporated literary prose stylings into nonfiction works. He wrote for the first-ever issue of New York Magazine and was essential to its formation; as Chris Bonanos writes, “[Wolfe’s] voice and presence are deeply encoded in the DNA of the entire New York City media corps.”

As a writer of novels and non-fiction, he immersed himself in niche subcultures and made them come alive, from Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters in the trippy LSD odyssey The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test to the adventures of the first astronauts in The Right Stuff. His first novel, The Bonfire of the Vanities, was a sprawling, Dickensian epic tackling race and class, politics and greed in 1980s New York. Many of the phrases Wolfe invented became a lasting part of our national vocabulary, from “pushing the envelope” (from The Right Stuff) to “the Me Decade,” which he coined in a piece for New York Magazine.

The author passed away at a Manhattan hospital on Monday. He is survived by his wife, Sheila, and two children.

* This post has been corrected to show that Wolfe died at 88 years of age. The original version incorrectly stated that he had died at 87.

Tom Wolfe Has Died at 88