The Origins of Speech

Harper's Magazine, August 2016.
Excerpt: Nobody in academia had ever witnessed or even heard of a performance like this before. In just a few years, in the early 1950s, a University of Pennsylvania graduate student — a student, in his twenties — had taken over an entire field of study,… More

Eunuchs of the Universe

Daily Beast, January 4, 2013.
Excerpt: Come join us as we go back seven months to the apex of the history of American capitalism in the 21st century. We find ourselves in a swarm of fellow starstruck souls outside the Sheraton Hotel on Seventh Avenue in Manhattan, churning, squirming. To… More

Faking West, Going East

New York Times, April 24, 2010.
In 1871, Mrs. Stowe was living in a mansion in Hartford, when a 36-year-old writer came to town and built a bigger one barely a block away. There, practically next door, he proceeded to overtake and replace her as the most famous American writer of all time.… More

The Rich Have Feelings, Too

Vanity Fair, September 2009.
Excerpt: Up until the tarantulas arrived late last year waving their billions in “bailout” money before our faces, there were ten of us, including the two Harvard algorithm swamis, who could use the Gulfstream V, the Falcon, and the three Learjets pretty… More

One Giant Leap to Nowhere

New York Times, July 18, 2009.
Excerpt: WELL, let’s see now … That was a small step for Neil Armstrong, a giant leap for mankind and a real knee in the groin for NASA. The American space program, the greatest, grandest, most Promethean — O.K. if I add “godlike”? — quest in… More

Greenwich Time

New York Times, September 27, 2008.
Be aware that your correspondent is merely bringing you the news when he reports how many people have besieged the author of “The Bonfire of the Vanities” over the past week with the question, “Where does this leave the Masters of the Universe now?”… More

A City Built of Clay

New York Magazine, July 6, 2008.
Excerpt: Yet rise and stand he did. He introduced himself. His name was Clay Felker. He had a booming voice, but it wasn’t so much the boom that struck me. It was his honk. The New York Honk, as it was called, was the most fashionable accent an American… More


The Atlantic, November 2007.
Excerpt: Since you asked … the American idea was born at approximately 5 p.m. on Friday, December 2, 1803, the moment Thomas Jefferson sprang the so-called pell-mell on the new British ambassador, Anthony Merry, at dinner in the White House. Oh, this was no… More

The Pirate Pose

Portfolio, May 2007.
Excerpt: There are some heavy-hitting Medicare-qualified hedge fund managers, notably Carl Icahn, 71, and the home run king, T. Boone Pickens, 78, who made $1.5 billion personally in a single year, 2005. But most of these people are in their late thirties… More

The (Naked) City and the Undead

New York Times, November 26, 2006.
Excerpt: CHIN up, tummy out, Aby Rosen, the 46-year-old German developer, owner of the Seagram Building and Lever House, was posing for pictures in front of 980 Madison Avenue barely one month ago when he grew so bold as to boast: “I have zero fear. Fear is… More

The Human Beast

– Jefferson Lecture, National Endowment for the Humanities, 2006.
Excerpt: Ladies and Gentlemen, this evening it is my modest intention to tell you in the short time we have together . . . everything you will ever need to know about the human beast. I take that term, the human beast, from my idol, Emile Zola, who published… More

The 2 Columbus Circle Game

New York Magazine, July 4, 2005.
Excerpt: Over the past twenty months, the ranks of the building’s would-be saviors have swollen from a seeming handful of “cranks”—such as Tom Wolfe, viewed as a serial troublemaker with unfortunately easy access to people who buy ink by the… More

How New York City Can Get Its Groove Back: Pleasure Principles

New York Times, June 12, 2005.
MARSHALL McLUHAN waited for the reporter’s lips, mine, in fact, to stop moving, leaned back in his seat in the rear garden of that year’s (1967) restaurant of the century, Lut?, looked up at a brilliant blue New York-in-May sky, lifted a… More

McLuhan’s New World

The Wilson Quarterly, Spring 2004.
Marshall McLuhan (1911-80) was an unlikely prophet of the information age. One of those who first saw the truth in the vatic pronouncements of this obscure academic was a talented young journalist name Tom Wolfe, who helped champion McLuhan’s ideas in… More

The Building That Isn’t There, cont.

New York Times, October 13, 2003.
Oh, they had thrown a regular fit before, hadn’t they, they being the critics and the architecture scholars and the rest of the International Style crowd, over his American Embassy building in New Delhi. But once they got through their yawping and… More

The Building That Isn’t There

New York Times, October 12, 2003.
Excerpt: Does the municipal log duly show that Brad Cloepfil, the architect about to transform Edward Durell Stone’s historic white marble Huntington Hartford museum on Columbus Circle, means to render it ”more ephemeral?”… More

Robert Noyce and His Congregation

Forbes, August 1997.
Excerpt: ROBERT NOYCE, INVENTOR OF THE silicon microchip and co-founder of Intel, grew up in Grinnell, Iowa, one of countless small towns in the Midwest that had been founded in the 19th century as religious communities by so-called Dissenting Protestants:… More

Sorry, But Your Soul Just Died

Forbes, 1996.
Excerpt: Being a bit behind the curve, I had only just heard of the digital revolution last February when Louis Rossetto, cofounder of Wired magazine, wearing a shirt with no collar and his hair as long as Felix Mendelssohn’s, looking every inch the… More

Frederick Hart: A Tribute

Weekly Standard, October 2, 1995.
Excerpt: Hart was discovered. . . by a stone carver from Italy, Roger Morigi. As Morigi’s apprentice, Hart learned to conceive of form in stone from the carver’s perspective, from the inside out. By day Morigi and Hart carved stone for Washington… More

Dangerous Obsessions

– Review of The Autobiography of Roy Cohn, by Sidney Zion, and Citizen Cohn, by Nicholas von Hoffman. New York Times, April 3, 1988.
”I went to work for Joe McCarthy in January 1953,” Roy Cohn told Sidney Zion, ”and was gone by the fall of ’54. Less than two years. But a lifetime was packed into it, and more if obituaries tell the tale. Does anybody doubt how mine… More

Snob’s Progress

– Review of Cecil Beaton: A Biography, by Hugo Vickers. New York Times, June 15, 1986.
CECIL BEATON, who died six years ago at the age of 76, was an English photographer, set designer, illustrator, portraitist and writer. Critics used to argue over whether he was a true artist in any of these pursuits or merely slick. But on one point… More

The Tinkerings of Robert Noyce

Esquire, December 1983.
Excerpt: In 1948 there were seven thousand people in Grinnell, Iowa, including more than one who didn’t dare take a drink in his own house without pulling the shades down first. It was against the law to sell liquor in Grinnell, but it was perfectly… More

Review of “High Life / Low Life”

The American Spectator, July 1982.
Jeffrey Bernard and Taki are two of the hottest tickets in British journalism. They write for the Spectator of London, in whose venerable ecru pages they stand out like a couple of yobbos looking for a brawl. They approach BritLit’s favorite medium, the… More

Tom Wolfe at Columbia

Columbia: A Journal of Literature and Art, transcribed and edited by Kirsten Dehner, No. 7 (Spring/Summer 1982).
The following is taken from a seminar given by Tom Wolfe to students in the Graduate Writing Division at Columbia University on March 16, 1981.

The Exploits of El Sid

– Review of The Last Laugh, by S.J. Perelman. New York Times, July 19, 1981.
S.J. PERELMAN, it turns out, left behind four chapters of an autobiography when he died in 1979. He planned to call it ”The Hindsight Saga,” a perelmaniacal spin off ”The Forsythe Saga.” These bits of memoir, published for the first… More

The Simplicity of Line and a British Clutter

– Review of The Situation is Hopeless, by Ronald Searle. New York Times, March 8, 1981.
CARICATURISTS, as any caricaturist can tell you, live, work and die in a shantytown scarcely visible from that monumental Brasilia known as the world of art. Not even the young ones expect much from so lowly a calling. In the art histories no caricaturist is… More

Columbus and the Moon

New York Times, July 20, 1979.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s moon landing 10 Years ago today was a Government project, but then so was Columbus’s voyage to America in 1492…

Golden Age

– Review of America's Great Illustrators, by Susan E. Meyer. New York Times, June 4, 1978.
EVEN the most successful American illustrators of our time–who, I would say (since I brought it up), are David Levine, Milton Glaser and Paul Davis–will shed a tear or two over this marvelous book…

The “Me” Decade and the Third Great Awakening

New York Magazine, August 23, 1976.
Excerpt: The trainer said, “Take your finger off the repress button.” Everybody was supposed to let go, let all the vile stuff come up and gush out. They even provided vomit bags, like the ones on a 747, in case you literally let it gush out! Then the… More

The Intelligent Co-ed’s Guide to America

Harper's Magazine, July 1976.
Excerpt: The next thing I knew, the discussion was onto the subject of fascism in America. Everybody was talking about police repression and the anxiety and paranoia as good folsk waited for the knock on the door and the descent of the knout on the nape of… More


Harper's Magazine, February 1973.

The Birth of ‘The New Journalism’; Eyewitness Report

New York Magazine, February 14, 1972.
Excerpt: I doubt if many of the aces I will be extolling in this story went into journalism with the faintest notion of creating a “new” journalism, a “higher” journalism, or even a mildly improved variety. I know they never dreamed… More

Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers

New York Magazine, June 1970.
Excerpt: Going downtown to mau-mau the bureaucrats got to be the routine practice in San Francisco. The poverty program encouraged you to go in for mau-mauing. They wouldn’t have known what to do without it. The bureaucrats at City Hall and in the… More

Radical Chic

New York Magazine, June 8, 1970.
Excerpt: At 2 or 3 or 4 a.m., somewhere along in there, on August 25, 1966, his 48th birthday, in fact, Leonard Bernstein woke up in the dark in a state of wild alarm. That had happened before. It was one of the forms his insomnia took. So he did the usual.… More

The Author’s Story

The New York Times, August 18, 1968.
OUT of the blue one day — this was two summers ago — here came some copies of letters Ken Kesey had written from various hideouts in Mexico. They had been relayed by a friend of Kesey who suggested I write an article about him. Kesey was still in… More


Esquire, July 1967. Reprinted in Mauve Gloves & Madmen, Clutter and Vine.

The Secret Vice

New York Herald Tribune, 1966.
Excerpt: Real buttonholes. That’s it! A man can take his thumb and forefinger and unbutton his sleeve at the wrist because this kind of suit has real buttonholes there. Tom, boy, it’s terrible. Once you know about it, you start seeing it. All the time!… More

Reply to Dwight Macdonald

The New York Review of Books, March 17, 1966.
In response to: Parajournalism II: Wolfe and The New Yorker from the February 3, 1966 issue To the Editors: I like your Tom Wolfe issues the best. I hereby charge and assert…

What If He Is Right?

New York Magazine, November 1965.
Excerpt: There are currently hundreds of studs of the business world, breakfast food package designers, television net work creative department vice-presidents, advertising “media reps,” lighting fixture fortune heirs, smiley patent lawyers,… More

The Last American Hero Is Junior Johnson. Yes!

Esquire, March 1965.
Excerpt: Ten o’clock Sunday morning in the hills of North Carolina. Cars, miles of cars, in every direction, millions of cars, pastel cars, aqua green, aqua blue, aqua beige, aqua buff, aqua dawn, aqua dusk, aqua aqua, aqua Malacca, Malacca lacquer,… More