Popular American author Tom Wolfe — who chronicled American power and greed in “The Bonfire of the Vanities” and its reach for the stars in “The Right Stuff” — died yesterday, Monday in a Manhattan hospital. He was 88.
Wolfe’s longtime agent Lynn Nesbit confirmed the writer’s death to ABC News. Nesbit said Wolfe died after he was hospitalized with an infection.
Wolfe’s daughter, Alexandra Wolfe, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, recalled that her father — who coined the terms “the me decade,” “radical chic” and “trophy wife” — never took a vacation and was always writing.
“No matter what, he’s always kept his dignity,” Alexandra Wolfe told the Wall Street Journal. “He’s dignified through and through.”
Born and Raised in Richmond, Virginia, to an agronomist father and a mother who was a landscape architect, Wolfe traced his love for literature to the books his parents kept on their bookshelves.
“They’d been invisible right up to the moment someone or something told me that the books on them were stuffed with dirty words and shocking behaviour — a rumour whose truth was eventually confirmed by ‘Portnoy’s Complaint,'” Wolfe told writer Michael Lewis in a 2015 interview for Vanity Fair.
After graduating from St. Christopher’s School, an Episcopal all-boys school in Richmond, Wolfe rejected a chance to enrol at Princeton University to stay in Virginia and attend Washington and Lee University, a private liberal arts school in Lexington.
A gifted amateur baseball player, Wolfe tried out in 1952 for the then-New York Giants, but he ended up getting cut and eventually landed at Yale University, where he pursued a graduate degree in American studies.
Despite earning a Ph.D., Wolfe set out on a career in journalism, working as a reporter at the Springfield Union in Massachusetts and later at The Washington Post.
In 1962, he was hired by The New York Herald Tribune, where his editor, Clay Felker, encouraged him to try new avenues in journalism that broke with standard objective reporting.
Wolfe published a string of nonfiction books beginning with “The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby” in 1965, a collection of his newspaper and magazine articles in which he experimented with using literary techniques and threw objectivity to the wind.