The Purple Decades

New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1982.

Summary from Publisher:

It was in the 1960s and 1970s–those “purple decades”–that Tom Wolfe rose to fame as one of the late-twentieth-century pioneers of American literature. He became the foremost chronicler of the gaudiest period in American history, much of which is spread out before us in these selections from nine of his books. Wolfe’s innovations in style, his feats as a reporter, and his insights into modern American life dominated a period of widespread experimentation in the writing of nonfiction. After the triumph in 1979 of The Right Stuff, his book on the Mercury astronauts, Wolfe received the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Harold D. Vursell Memorial Award for prose style; the American Book Award for nonfiction; and one of journalism’s highest honors, the Columbia Journalism Award.

Wolfe looks and plays the part of a Gotham Boulevardier, but his ability as a reporter to enter seemingly alien worlds has become legendary. His long piece “Mau-mauing the Flak Catchers” (included here in its entirety) provided the first insider’s view of that bizarre government-sponsored slum rebellion known as the poverty program. Another long piece called “The Truest Sport: Jousting with Sam and Charlie” (also complete here) has become a classic work on aerial combat in Vietnam as experienced by the pilots themselves. His 1968 book, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (two chapters of which appear in these pages), is recognized as the major book on the hippie movement of the 1960s.

Table of Contents:

Bob & Spike
The Last American Hero
The Voices Of Village Square
Purveyor of the Public Life
A Sunday Kind of Love
The Girl of the Year
The Woman Who Has Everything
The Pump House Gang
The Mid-Atlantic Man
On The Bus
These Radical Chic Evenings
Mau-mauing The Flak Catchers
The Truest Sport: Jousting With Sam and Charlie
The “Me” Decade And The Third Great Awakening
The Intelligent Coed’s Guide to America
Mauve Gloves & Madmen, Clutter & Vine
The Lower Classes
The Apache Dance
The White Gods

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