Tom Wolfe, Bonfire of the Vanities author, dies aged 87

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Tom Wolfe, the innovative journalist and author who wrote such best-selling masterpieces as "The Bonfire of the Vanities" and "The Right Stuff" has passed away.

Wolfe's agent confirmed his death to The Wall Street Journal Tuesday. During a prolific career, Wolfe turned his scathing pen to pop culture, the hippie movement, the art world, LSD, race relations and the lives of astronauts.

Known as a natty dresser in his signature white three-piece suits and spectator shoes, Wolfe exhibited a bon vivant man about town even though his roots traced to a Southern middle-class upbringing. He later left for Washington, then New York, arriving there in 1962 to work for The New York Herald Tribune. He also edited a volume of work by writers Truman Capote, Joan Didion, Hunter S. Thompson, Norman Mailer and George Plimpton, titled The New Journalism.

His first work of fiction turned out to be his most famous, the bestseller The Bonfire of the Vanities, an epic satire on social class, ambition, racism, politics and greed in 1980s NY. A scathing takedown of greed and excess in NY, it was recognized as an essential American novel of the 1980s and was made into a film starring Tom Hanks.

He was born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, and went to college at Washington and Lee University and received his PhD from Yale.

Wolfe first came to national prominence after publishing The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, which followed Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, in the 1960s. For Wolfe, the techniques a writer used in fiction and nonfiction were interchangeable, and he proved that assumption repeatedly with a host of captivating essays in magazines like The New Yorker, Esquire, and Harper's.

More recently, Wolfe published "I Am Charlotte Simmons" (2004) and "Back to Blood" (2013). He is survived by his wife, Sheila, and their two children, Alexandra Wolfe and Tommy Wolfe.

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