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.

PEN America to Sue Donald Trump for Restricting Freedom of Speech

By | Authors, News, Political | No Comments
Writers’ group PEN America, which consists of many well known writers and novelists, has filed a lawsuit in federal court in New York against President Donald Trump for ‘violations of America’s First Amendment’.

The group is attempting to “stop President Trump from using the machinery of government to retaliate or threaten reprisals against journalists and media outlets for coverage he dislikes”. The First Amendment of the US constitution protects freedom of speech and PEN aren’t the only group to voice concerns about how Trump has attempted to shut down journalism.
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PG Wodehouse to Be Honored with a Memorial at Westminster Abbey

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Fans of PG Wodehouse will be pleased to learn that, 43 years after his death, the author is set to be memorialised by Westminster Abbey. The news was especially exciting to the the Wodehouse Society and by Ben Schott, the author of a new Jeeves and Wooster story, who described the Jeeves and Wooster creator as the “personification of a very specific breed of English writing.”

Schott stated that when the news was announced that the Dean of Westminster had given permission for a memorial to Wodehouse in the abbey, “there was a ripple of joy that it was happening, but also puzzlement that it hadn’t happened before.”
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John Cunliffe author of Postman Pat dies

By | Authors, Children's Literature | No Comments
The beloved author of Postman Pat, John Cunliffe, has died aged 85.

Postman Pat has been a part of many British children’s lives since 1981 when the first story was published. Cunliffe took inspiration from the Lake District when creating Postman Pat’s home- the fictional village of Greendale- with its rolling hills and dales, and small farms and villages.

Pat, and his feline friend Jess, drive about the village delivering letters, working through problems, and getting into the occasional scrape. The stories were commissioned by the BBC to produce a series of animations, which proved popular for over 40 years!

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New Book Explores the Relationship Between Writers and their Cats

By | Authors, New Releases | No Comments
Released last month, Writers and Their Cats does exactly what it says on the tin. Writers are a solitary sort, at home all day, and so it does make them perfect for keeping house pets and cats and writing kind of go hand in hand. I’ve often wondered how many authors have a feline muse, draped across their lap as they type and now it seems this new book has all the answers.

This volume celebrates forty five famous writers including Mark Twain, Haruki Murakami, and Ursula K. Le Guin, who have shared their home and writing space with a feline friend. There are photographs and stories all exploring that special bond between wordsmith and mouser.

Here’s a taster:

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Haruki Murakami Withdraws His Book from This Year’s Alternative Nobel Prize

By | Authors, Literary Awards, News | No Comments
Famed Japanese author Haruki Murakami has requested that his 2017 book Killing Commendatore be withdrawn from this year’s alternative Nobel Prize in Literature award. This year sees an alternative award called the New Academy Prize in Literature, as the original has been postponed this year following a sexual misconduct scandal.

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