Remembering Tom Wolfe, Author of Bonfire of the Vanities

By May 16, 2018Authors, News

Sad news reached us yesterday with the death of American author and journalist Tom Wolfe.

Born Thomas Kennerly Wolfe Jr. on 2nd March 1930 in Richmond Virginia, Tom Wolfe showed his love for writing early, as editor of the school newspaper. After graduating in 1947, Wolfe turned down an offer for Princeton University and instead attented Washington and Lee University where he was a member of the Phi Kappa Sigma fraternity. During his time at university he majored in English, was sports editor of the university newspaper and helped to found a literary magazine, Shenandoah giving him plenty of opportunity to practice his writing and journalistic skills.

A keen baseball player too, Wolfe played semi-professionally while still at college and in 1952 earned a tryout with the New York Giants, he was cut after three days and abandoned baseball for good (possibly good news for us readers!) and took a doctorate instead.

Wolfe’s thesis was titled The League of American Writers: Communist Organizational Activity Among American Writers, 1929-1942 and in the course of his research interviews many writers of the day including Malcolm Cowley, Archibald MacLeish and James T. Farrell.

This led to Wolfe being offered many jobs in academia but he turned them all down to work as a reporter. In 1956 he become a reporter for the Springfield Union in Springfield, Massachusetts but by 1959 was working for the Washington Post. While working for the Post he won an award from The Newspaper Guild for foreign reportig in Cuba in 1961 and a further Guild’s award for humour. It was during this time that he honed his fiction writing skills in feature pieces for the Post.

Eventually Wolfe would head to New York and it was here he would find his first literary success. After being commissioned to write a piece for Esquire on the custom car culture of South California he struggled, slipping into procrastination. The evening before the deadline the piece still wasn’t written and Wolfe typed a letter to his editor, Byron Dobell ignoring all journalistic conventions and explain what he wanted to say on the subject. Dobell removed the salutation ‘Dear Byron’ and published the piece. While the piece itself got a mixed reception, the notoriety it created led to Wolfe publishing his first book The Kandy Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby, a collection of writings from his journalistic days. In the process he coined ‘New Journalism’.

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The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and many other nonfiction works would follow through the 1960s and 1970s and continue right up to 2016. In 1987 Wolfe got his first success as a novelist with his best known work, The Bonfire of the Vanities, said to be inspired by Vanity Fair. Three more full length novels followed, more nonfiction works, and a raft of awards for his journalism throughout his career. Wolfe’s final work was a nonfiction book, The Kingdom of Speech, released in 2016.

Recently Tom Wolfe was hospitalised in Manhattan with an infection. On Tuesday, Tom’s agent confirmed that Tom Wolfe had died on Monday 14th May, aged 88.

Charles Dickens’ Contribution to Science to Feature in Exhibition

By | Authors, Culture, Literary Events, Literary Places, News | No Comments
Charles Dickens: Man of Science is a current exhibition running at the Charles Dickens Museum until November 11th and the exhibition is looking at the author’s contribution to science, and notably medicine.

Dickens astute observations on human behaviours means he spotted many illnesses and their symptoms before they were recognised by the medical community and his descriptions so accurate that they can be used to build correlation between symptoms and disease.
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Some Surprising Facts about J.M Barrie’s Peter Pan

By | Authors, Children's Literature | No Comments
J. M Barrie (9th May 1860 – 19th June 1937) was a Scottish novelist and playwright, best remembered today as the writer who brought us Peter Pan, the boy who refused to grow up.

After being born and educated in Scotland, Barrie moved to London where he wrote more plays and novels. It was here he met the Llewelyn Davies boys who inspired him to write about a baby boy who has magical adventures in Kensington Gardens (The Little White Bird), and to write Peter Pan, or the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up, a fairy play about an ageless boy and an ordinary girl named Wendy. Read More

Mary Shelley to Be the Focus of ‘Genius’ Season 3

By | Authors, News, Television | No Comments
In 2017, National Geographic launched a new TV series called Genius, which explores the lives of famed historical figures one might well label a genius. The first season followed Albert Einstein, the second Pablo Picasso, and it has now been confirmed that a third season is in the works and will follow the gothic writer Mary Shelley.

“Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein left an indelible mark on generations of imaginations,” said Carolyn Bernstein, EVP, global development and production for National Geographic Global Networks. “Equally inspiring is the story of Shelley’s relentless innovation, coupled with her desire to live on her own unconventional terms despite immense societal and cultural obstacles.” Read More

Quotes on Life and Literature by Joyce Carol Oates

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Joyce Carol Oates is an American writer (16th June 1938) whose first book was published in 1962. Through the years Oates has published over forty novels, plays and novellas and many volumes of short stories, poetry and nonfiction too.

Oates is one of the most celebrated American authors of our time and has won many awards including the National Book Award for her novel Them (USUK), two O. Henry Awards and the National Humanities Medal. She has also been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize six times. Read More

Samoan writer brings taboo subjects to the fore in new book.

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Samoan artist and writer Sia Figiel has a new book out this year that tackles human stereotypes and taboos.

Sia was heavily influenced by the Somoan culture she grew up in and names her greatest inspiration as Samoan novelist and poet, Albert Wendt. She is best known for her earlier novels Where we Once Belonged and Girl in the Moon Circle.

Her latest novel tackles difficult subjects and attempts to dispel certain myths and stereotypes and, she says, only took her 6 weeks to write!

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What keeps Judith Kerr writing after 50 years of success?

By | Authors, Children's Literature | No Comments
Judith Kerr is a writer and illustrator who is best known for her debut children’s book The Tiger Who Came To Tea. Published in 1968, The Tiger Who Came To Tea is so popular that it has never been out of print. 30 books have been created- all written and illustrated by Judith- and 50 years have passed, but Judith is still drawing and writing every day.

What makes a successful artist keep working well into their 90s?

The Telegraph gave some answers in an exclusive interview with Kerr at her home- the one with the very same kitchen as featured in her debut book The Tiger Who Came To Tea. 

Here are some of our favourite quotes from that interview.

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