The writer who coined the phrase “the Me Decade,” in reference to the selfish materialism of the 80s, has passed away at the age of 88. Tom Wolfe died in a Manhattan hospital Monday. He had lived in New York since becoming a reporter in 1962, taking a job with The New York Herald Tribune.
Wolfe made a name for himself with such popular novels as “The Right Stuff, “Bonfire of the Vanities,” and “The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby,” and “Man in Full,” all of which involved the worlds of California surfers, car customizers, astronauts, Manhattan moneyed status-seekers, and as such, according to The New York Times.
Wolfe was known as much for how he dressed and his appearance in public as he was for his ability to craft searing prose. He made a point to be seen in public only in a three-piece vanilla suit, pinstriped silk shirt and a starched white collar, with a handkerchief sticking out of his breast pocket, according to The Times.
Not only was he an accomplished novelist, he also helped coin a new style of writing called New Journalism, which attempts to blend non-fiction with a plot-based sequence of storytelling as you’d find in a novel.
“As a titlist of flamboyance he is without peer in the Western world,” write Joseph Epstein. “His prose style is normally shotgun baroque, sometimes edging over into machine-gun rococo, as in his article on Las Vegas which begins by repeating the word ‘hernia’ 57 times.”
“He is probably the most skillful writer in America,” wrote William F. Buckley Jr. “I mean by that he can do more things with words than anyone else.”
One of his non-fiction works, “The Right Stuff,” which was published in 1979, details the early stages of NASA’s space program involving the Mercury astronauts. In 1983 it was adapted into a film, which became wildly popular.
Wolfe followed “The Right Stuff” with “The Bonfire of the Vanities,” published in 1987. That story seemed to define the 1980s with its satire on money, power, greed and vanity evidence in New York during that generation.
An editor of Wolfe’s said of him, “He has this unique gift of language that sets him apart as Tom Wolfe. It is full of hyperbole; it is brilliant; it is funny, and he has a wonderful ear for how people look and feel. He has a gift of fluency that pours out of him the way Balzac had it.”
Please pray for Tom Wolfe’s loved ones during this difficult time. Be sure to read about the latest development in Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s upcoming wedding. Will her dad attend?