Tom Wolfe, who died Monday at 88 after an illness,would have been a first ballot member of the Writers’ Hall of Fame if he had only written Radical Chic and Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers.
Happily, I didn’t stop with this one. Over the decades I also read, enjoyed, and benefited from The Right Stuff, The Painted Word, From Bauhaus to Our House, The Bonfire of the Vanities, A Man in Full, and The Kingdom of Speech. These books are both topical and timeless. They will be read for a long time.
Wolfe was a tireless researcher, fully immersing himself in the worlds he wrote about, which he then presented to us accurately. He was probably the most acute statustition over the past half century.For a guy who was so relentless in puncturing the pretentions, affectations, and status fantasies of others, I never understood the business about the white suits and the silly hats. But like the rest of us, he was entitled to his eccentricities.
I was privileged to meet Wolfe briefly at an appearance he made at the University of South Florida in Tampa in the late eighties. He was in a small auditorium in one of those buildings that weren’t there when my wife and I attended USF. Surprisingly, only about 30 students turned out to see him. Maybe that accounts for every student as USF who knew who he was. (Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised.) He talked briefly about his latest book, can’t remember now which one it was, and about writing in general. He was low-key, cordial, amusing, answered what he was asked completely. I was impressed. He was wearing his standard white kit, but without a silly hat.
RIP Tom Wolfe. We won’t see your like.
Source: The American Spectator