How Tom Wolfe Became Tom Wolfe

Michael Lewis, Vanity Fair, November 2015.


The documents tell the story of the leading journalistic observer and describer of American life, in a time of radical cultural transformation, and of the sensational explosion in American literary journalism that occurred in the late 1960s and 1970s—on which the ashes and the dust are just now settling. But it’s a bit different from the story Wolfe has long told. That story shifts the focus away from his particular self and stresses his techniques. The unaided imagination—Wolfe’s story goes—is a poor substitute for reporting and experience. At some point in his checkered career The American Novelist forgot that he needed to venture into the world and learn how it worked before he wrote about it, and left the field wide open for The American Journalist.

Vanity Fair