Cover image for Tom Wolfe : a critical companion
Tom Wolfe : a critical companion
Ragen, Brian Abel.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, 2002.
Physical Description:
xi, 193 pages ; 25 cm.
Format :


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PS3573.O526 Z86 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Always controversial, Tom Wolfe's writings inarguably have had enduring cultural impact through the decades, starting with his short stories in the 1960s and the publication of his first nonfiction novel, "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test"(1968). This book offers the fullest treatment of Wolfe's life and literary output available to date, with full analysis of his major works including "The Right Stuff" (1979), "The Bonfire of the Vanities" (1987), and his most recent novel "A Man in Full"(1999). With insightful historical perspectives to Wolfe's literary and cultural contributions, this book situates all the book-length works both in the context of Wolfe's own life and of the literary forms he either shaped or rebelled against. Wolfe's readers will enjoy the fascinating account of his personal and professional life. A full chapter is devoted to exploring Wolfe's place in contemporary American literature, which places the writer alongside other notable writers who made their start in journalism, including Twain and Hemingway.

In addition to the discussions of character and plot development for each book, Wolfe's thematic concerns are also fully explored so that readers will be able to understand and appreciate his ideas on society, religion, and gender. Each work is illuminated from an interesting literary perspective, which includes a feminist reading of "Radical Chic," a religious reading of "A Man in Full," and a reading that places the "Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test" in the tradition of the picaresque novel. A select bibliography, including reviews, completes this companion.

Author Notes

BRIAN ABEL RAGEN is Professor of English at Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville. He is the author of A Wreck on the Road to Damascus: Innocence, Guilt, and Conversion in Flannery O'Connor (1989). He has contributed numerous articles on American literature to journals and reference works. He is the editor of the journal Papers on Language and Literature .

Reviews 1

School Library Journal Review

Gr 10 Up-Along with Truman Capote and Norman Mailer, Wolfe has pioneered the nonfiction novel, which blurs the lines between fiction and nonfiction. The first chapter is devoted to his life, and paints him as a unique and colorful figure who is known for his white suits and controversial explorations of various aspects of American social structure. The second chapter details Wolfe's place in contemporary literature, as a leading writer of New Journalism. Ragen does an excellent job of explaining the characteristics of realistic-fiction writing and of placing it in context. This section contains the most challenging material in an otherwise extremely accessible text. Subsequent chapters critically examine Wolfe's The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby, The Pump House Gang, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak-Catchers, The Right Stuff, The Bonfire of the Vanities, and A Man in Full. These works are examined using various critical readings that introduce students to a variety of interpretive techniques.-Marilyn Heath, Belton-Honea Path High School, Honea Path, SC (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Kathleen Gregory Klein
Series Forewordp. ix
1. The Life of Tom Wolfep. 1
2. Tom Wolfe's Place in Contemporary Literaturep. 39
3. Short Stories: The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby (1965) and The Pump House Gang (1968)p. 59
4. The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (1968)p. 75
5. Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak-Catchers (1970)p. 101
6. The Right Stuff (1979)p. 121
7. The Bonfire of the Vanities (1987)p. 139
8. A Man in Full (1998)p. 157
Bibliographyp. 177
Indexp. 185