The Right Stuff author Tom Wolfe dies at 87

Tom Wolfe, an early practitioner of "new journalism" who captured the mood and culture of America across five decades with books, has died at the age of 88, his agent said.
Tom Wolfe, who died on Monday, had been hospitalised in a Manhattan hospital with an infection.
Tom Wolfe, who died on Monday, had been hospitalised in a Manhattan hospital with an infection.

NEW YORK • Tom Wolfe, an innovative journalist whose technicolour, wildly punctuated prose brought to life the worlds of California surfers, car customisers, astronauts and Manhattans moneyed status-seekers in works such as The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby, The Right Stuff and Bonfire Of The Vanities, has died.

His death on Monday was confirmed by his agent, Ms Lynn Nesbit, who said Wolfe had been hospitalised in a Manhattan hospital with an infection. He was 87.

Wolfe, who produced nine non-fiction books from 1965 to 1981, had lived in New York since joining The New York Herald Tribune as a reporter in 1962.

In his use of novelistic techniques in his non-fiction, Wolfe, beginning in the 1960s, helped create the enormously influential hybrid known as New Journalism.

But as an unabashed contrarian, he was almost as well known for his attire as his satire.

He was instantly recognisable as he strolled down Madison Avenue - a tall, slender, blue-eyed, still-boyish-looking man in his spotless three-piece vanilla bespoke suit, pinstriped silk shirt with a starched white high collar, bright handkerchief peeking from his breast pocket, watch on a fob, faux spats and white shoes.

Once asked to describe his get-up, Wolfe replied brightly: "Neo-pretentious."

Writer Joseph Epstein wrote in The New Republic: "As a titlist of flamboyance, he is without peer in the Western world."

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 16, 2018, with the headline 'The Right Stuff author Tom Wolfe dies at 87'. Print Edition | Subscribe