Tom Wolfe was born on March 2, 1931 in Richmond, Virginia. He is an American journalist and novelist.
He has attended many of America’s most elite schools. After graduating from Virginia’s St. Christopher’s School, he attended Washington and Lee University as an undergraduate. He then got his Ph. D. from Yale University in American Studies.
In 1956, Wolfe got a job as a reporter for the Springfield Union, beginning his 10 year career as a journalist.
He also worked at The Washington Post for six months as the Latin America correspondent, for which he one the Washington Newspaper Guild’s foreign news prize for his coverage of Cuba.
In 1962 he began to report for the New York Herald-Tribune.
-Wolfe’s fame comes from his satire of American society and trends.
-He is known for his painstaking research and report with incredible details.
-He has written three novels, and 11 books of his non-fiction work have been published. He has also written many essays and articles published in various magazines and newspapers.
- Read a brief excerpt from The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test :
Wolfe’s Claim to Fame:
Wolfe’s first article for Esquire magazine was about the hot rod culture of Southern California. When he realized he was having great difficulty writing the article, the editor, Byron Dobell, suggested Wolfe send him his notes so they could work together. Wolfe began to write everything that he wanted to say in the article, ignoring any conventions on journalism. Once Dobell read his notes, he scratched out the “Dear Byron” at the top and that was the article printed in the magazine. The article was later published in book form, title, ”The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby”. This article marked the beginning of “The New Journalism”.
Wolfe did not write his first novel, The Bonfire of the Vanities , until 1987. All of his work up until then had been non-fiction.
As apparent by the pictures on this slideshow, Tom Wolfe is known for his trademark white suit. This trend of his began in 1962 when he started writing for the New York Herald Tribute.
Criticism: Throughout his career, Tom Wolfe has received criticism because of his unorthodox style. He especially received criticism when he began writing novels in 1987. The most famous criticism he has received was from three famous American novelists: John Updike, Norman Mailer, and John Irving. In a critical review of Wolfe’s second novel, A Man in Full , written in 1998, Updike claimed that Wolfe was not an author, but instead only a journalist, and that his writing was only “entertainment”. In a 1989 essay written for Harper’s Magazine entitled “Stalking the Billion-footed Beast”, Wolfe criticized modern American authors and claimed that the only thing that could save modern literature was if writers began to apply journalistic techniques to their writing. Wolfe continued this thought when he wrote an essay in response to the three authors’ criticisms. His essay was titled “My Three Stooges”.
In 1970, Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers was published. The first essay, “Radical Chic”, was Wolfe’s response to a party he attended at Leonard Berstein’s home that was also a fund-raiser for the Black Panther Party.
Elicited many outraged responses. One Black Panther leader called the essay “fascist”.
In 2000, Wolfe published an essay entitled “Hooking Up”, the subject of which is “sex and sexiness”.
Wolfe’s latest novel has garnered controversy for its detailed account of sex life in colleges.
A CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF “THE ELECTRIC KOOL-AID ACID TEST”
What it ’ s About:
The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test chronicles the adventures of Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters. It gives the history of Kesey, from his early days as an all-American high-school athlete, to his first experiences with LSD and other drugs in research lab.
The book is essentially an account of the hippie movement. However, it mainly focuses on Kesey, chronicling his “Golden Boy” age until his eventual breakdown.
The book is written in first-person, from Tom Wolfe’s point of view. Occasionally it switches to more of a third person point of view, especially when talking about Ken Kesey’s past.
Read a brief history on Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters: http://www.lib.virginia.edu/small/exhibits/sixties/kesey.html
STYLE: THE NEW JOURNALISM
The most notable aspect of The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test is Wolfe’s style of writing.
This style is what is known as “The New Journalism”, a movement of writing that Tom Wolfe is credited with being the creator.
Wolfe experimented with new literary techniques. He used:
Free Association and Stream of Consciousness
Exclamation Marks (a great deal of them)
Unusual sentence and paragraph structure
Wolfe’s varied and exciting style gives the reader the impression of immediacy, as if all the events he his describing are happening exactly at that moment.
excerpt: “ But of course! ---the feeling ---out here at night, free, with the motor running and the adrenaline flowing, cruising in the neon glories of the new American night---it was very Heaven to be the first wave of the most extraordinary kids in the history of the world---only 15, 16, 17 years old, dressed in the haute couture of pink Oxford shirts, sharp pants, snaky half-inch belts, fast shoes---with all this neon glamour overhead, which somehow tied in with the technological superheroics of the jet, TV, atomic subs, ultrasonics---Postwar American suburbs---glorious world! And the hell with the intellectual bad-mouthers of America’s tailfin civilization…They couldn’t know what it was like or else they had it cultivated out of them---the feeling---to be very Superkids! the world’s first generation of the little devils---feeling immune, beyond calamity. One’s parents remembered the sloughing common order, War & Depression---but Superkids knew only the emotional surge of the great payoff, when nothing was common any longer---The Life! A glorious place, a glorious age, I tell you! A very Neon Renaissance---And the myths that actually touched you at that time---not Hercules, Orpheus, Ulysses, and Aeneas---but Superman, Captain Marvel, Batman, The Human Torch, The Sub-Mariner, Captain America, Plastic Man, The Flash---but of course! On Perry Lane, what did they think it was---quaint?---when he talked about the comic-book fantasy world already , this electro-pastel world of Mom&Dad&Buddy&Sis in the suburbs. There they go, in the family car, a white Pontiac Bonneville sedan--- the family car! ---a huge crazy god-awful-powerful fantasy creature to begin with, 327-horsepower, shaped like twenty-seven nights of lubricious luxury brougham seduction--- you’re already there, in Fantasyland , so why not move off your snug-harbor quilty-bed dead center and cut loose---go ahead and say it---Shazam!---juice it up to what it’s already aching to be: 327,000 horsepower, a whole superhighway long and soaring , screaming on toward…Edge City, and ultimate fantasies, current and future…Billy Batson said Shazam! And turned into Captain Marvel. Jay Garrick inhaled an experimental gas in the research lab…”
Wolfe, Tom. The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test . New York: Bantam, 1969.
This book was Tom Wolfe’s second major publication. It is a non-fiction work about Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, as well as the hippie movement. It is the book that I used for my critical analysis.
“ Tom Wolfe”. Wikipedia . May 12, 2005 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Wolfe>
This site was essentially like reading an encyclopedia. It gives a brief biography on Tom Wolfe, then gives a more in-depth look at his life, as well as his writings.
“ Tom Wolfe resources”. Robot Wisdom. <http://www.robotwisdom.com/jorn/wolfe.html>
On this site, the author gives many links to different resources and articles on Tom Wolfe. There is also a timeline of Wolfe’s life, as well as a list of his work, with links to more pages about each work. Some links, unfortunately, do not work.
Tom Wolfe. Home page. 2004. <http://www.tomwolfe.com>
This site is Tom Wolfe home page. It has an in-depth biography, a complete list of all of his work (complete with images of the covers), and current information about his tours and what not. Some of the elements are still under construction.
COMPLETE BIBLIOGRAPHY OF TOM WOLFE’S WORK:
View a complete list of all of Tom Wolfe’s books here: