Known for The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and Bonfire of the Vanities, Wolfe was a champion of busting convention. He would inspire countless others with his stylized "New Journalism" in the 1960s.
Award-winning US writer Tom Wolfe has died at the age of 88, his agent said on Tuesday. Wolfe was known as a pioneer of New Journalism in the 1960s, and later for his successful career as a novelist. He passed away on Monday after suffering from an infection.
Born in Virginia in 1930, Wolfe achieved national prominence covering the rise of hippie culture in a freeform, hyperbolic style free of dispassionate journalistic conventions that would become known as New Journalism. His 1968 book The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, detailing the free-wheeling lifestyle of writer Ken Kesey and his followers known as the Merry Pranksters, is widely considered the finest example of the style.
He also penned the well-known chronicle of the Mercury Seven astronauts, The Right Stuff, which was turned into a critically acclaimed film directed by Philip Kaufman.
Later in his career, Wolfe turned to fiction and in 1987 published The Bonfire of the Vanities. The book is considered by many to be the quintessential New York novel of the 1980s, and details hedonism and cultural tensions amid a resurgent financial sector that would pave the way for other works such as Bret Easton Ellis' American Psycho and Martin Scorsese's film The Wolf of Wall Street.
Wolfe continuously strove to break down both journalistic and literary "rules," eschewing what he considered the stiffness of the generation that preceded him. Also unlike earlier writers, he sought to confront America's social issues head on and scorned what he saw as the self-absorption of many of his contemporaries.
"He was an incredible writer," fellow New Journalism pioneer Gay Talese told the Associated Press. "And you couldn't imitate him. When people tried it was a disaster. They should have gotten a job at a butcher's shop."
es/msh (AP, AFP)