Archive for July 16th, 2013

Tom Wolfe’s 2012 novel, ‘Back to Blood,’ presents Miami in oppressively granular detail

July 16, 2013

By Matthew E. Milliken
July 16, 2013

Tom Wolfe is an important writer who writes important books, an accomplished newspaper and magazine journalist, and a leading figure in the New Journalism movement. Beginning in the mid-1960s, Wolfe incorporated literary techniques into nonfiction writing. His best-known nonfiction books, all best-sellers, are The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby (1965), an anthology that portrayed American’s unique car culture in its title essay; The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (1968), which chronicled the drug-addled antics of Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters; and The Right Stuff (1979), which documented the early days of America’s space program.

The Richmond, Va., native pivoted into fiction with The Bonfire of the Vanities, a novel originally published as a serial by Rolling Stone in 1984-85. (When it appeared in book form in 1987, it too became a best-seller.) This tale of a New York investment banker who becomes embroiled in an inflammatory race-infused controversy launched a sequence of novels in which Wolfe switched modes. Instead of infusing journalism with literary forms, Wolfe was basing his fictions on in-depth reporting.

The Bonfire of the Vanities was followed by other tremendously successful novels grounded in journalism: A Man in Full (1998), which captured the personal journeys of a foundering Atlanta developer and a young man on the make, and I Am Charlotte Simmons (2004), which showed a rural North Carolinian progressing through her freshman year at an elite private university.  Read the rest of this entry »

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