How Tom Wolfe Helped Create New Journalism

David Browne, "How Tom Wolfe Helped Create New Journalism," Rolling Stone, June 8, 2017.


In the mid-1960s, the acid tests thrown by Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters were the white-hot center of the psychedelic revolution: dusk-to-dawn parties, usually in the Bay Area, that brought together freaks and Hells Angels, offered free LSD in plastic tubs and sometimes featured live accompaniment by the Grateful Dead. One night in 1966, Kesey and his followers found an unlikely figure in their midst: a genteel, Virginia-born former newspaper reporter in a three-piece suit. The book that Tom Wolfe would write about Kesey and his orbit, 1968’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, became the first great account of the Sixties counterculture. It also helped redefine journalism, thanks to a wild-eyed, fast-paced style that dropped readers right inside the action. “Not even the hip world in New York,” Wolfe wrote of one of Kesey’s legendary bus trips, “was quite ready for the phenomenon of a bunch of people roaring across the continental U.S.A. in a bus covered with swirling Day-Glo mandalas aiming movie cameras and microphones at every freaking thing in this whole freaking country while Neal Cassady wheeled the bus around the high curves like Super Hud…”

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