Bonfire of the Vanities author Tom Wolfe dies aged 88


The writer died in hospital in Manhattan yesterday, his agent Lynn Nesbit confirmed to The Guardian.

Tom Wolfe, the author and journalist known for pioneering New Journalism, has died.

Wolfe was born in Richmond, Virginia and got into writing early as editor of his school newspaper.

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. At the Tribune, Wolfe developed his voice as a writer, a colorful, inventive style he honed at Esquire, where he began writing in 1963. He cemented his reputation with Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers and The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby, collections of his articles and essays.

His debut novel The Bonfire of the Vanities, published in 1987, was a satirical drama about New Yorkers looking at issues such as ambition, social class, racism and greed. 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. A larger than life character, Wolfe was renowned for his snappy dress style, forever sporting a three-piece white suit and spats (an iconic look he once memorably described as "Neo-pretentious"), along with a penchant for coining iconic phrases - "Radical Chic" and "the Me Decade" became part of the cultural lexicon.

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.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Tuesday that Wolfe's "wry wit and sharp observations defined an era of life in New York".

Later novels included A Man in Full (1998), I Am Charlotte Simmons (2004) and Back to Blood (2012). He was a star pitcher in high school and in college at Washington and Lee and unsuccessfully tried out for the New York Giants.

Wolfe is survived by his wife, Sheila, and his children, Alexandra and Tommy.