Best-selling novelist Tom Wolfe dies at 87
Bonfire of the Vanities author Tom Wolfe has died at the age of 88.
His death was confirmed by his agent, Lynn Nesbit, who told Reuters that he had passed away from an unspecified infection in a New York City hospital.
Wolfe was perhaps best known for The Right Stuff, a book about the first American astronauts published in 1979, as well as Bonfire of the Vanities, a satirical novel about excesses in 1980s New York, published in 1987. In addition, he wrote the cult classic Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, which was printed in 1968.
His agent reportedly declined to comment in further detail about her client's death, however, she did refer reporters to an article in the Wall Street Journal, where she was quoted as saying: "He is not just an American icon, but he had a huge international literary reputation. All the same, he was one of the most modest and kindest people I have ever met. I never exchanged a cross word with him in our many years of working together.”
After his death was announced, an outpouring of tributes came from American journalists. Editor of the New York Times, Pamela Paul, described Wolfe's passing as the "passing of an era", while Matthew Continetti, editor of the Washington Free Beacon, described him as "until yesterday, America's greatest living writer".
The author and journalist will be remembered as a pioneer of New Journalism, a style of news writing developed in the 1960s and 1970s. Deemed unconventional at the time, the literary style was recognised for being written from a subjective perspective as opposed to more traditional objective journalism.
Wolfe first started off as a reporter in the late 1950s, working for the Springfield Union, before being hired by The Washington Post in 1959. Quickly developing an unconventional style, he was much-recognised for his work, winning an award from The Newspaper Guild for foreign reporting in Cuba in 1961 and also scooping the Guild's award for humour.
Heading to New York City in 1962, he worked at the New York Herald Tribune, which encouraged its writers to break the conventions of newspaper writing. This led him to assist in developing New Journalism and saw him experimenting with literary devices not normally associated with feature writing, including scene-by-scene construction, extensive dialogue, multiple points of view, and detailed description of individuals' status-life symbols.
Speaking of status symbols, he once told the Wall Street Journal: "I think every living moment of a human being's life, unless the person is starving or in immediate danger of death in some other way, is controlled by a concern for status."
He went on to have a successful career in writing, with four of his influential books being made into films. He is survived by his wife Sheila, and their two children, Alexandra and Tommy.