All of his books are worth seeking out, but I’d recommend particularly Radical Chic, for its backstage look at sixties liberalism at its apogee; The Bonfire of the Vanities to see how Wolfe jumpstarted the dying tradition of the Great American Novel; and Hooking Up, as a definitive look at the major issues preoccupying America right before 9/11. Hooking Up also contains “Tiny Mummies”, Wolfe’s mid-sixties “murderous gutter journalism” balloon-popping of The New Yorker’s pretensions, which put him on the map as a writer to be reckoned with, but remained out of print for almost 35 years.
Wolfe’s anthology of non-fiction, The New Journalism has been out of print since the mid-1970s, but is well worth seeking out for any budding writer who wants a how-to of Wolfe’s techniques, and a great collection of the best non-fiction writers of the 1960s and early 1970s, a golden era of journalism.
Last year, R. Emmitt Tyrrell gave us a brief preview of Wolfe’s next novel, which will be on a subject Wolfe has wanted to cover since at least the mid-1980s: the American university scene. As Tyrrell wrote:
I never probe too deeply when Tom is at work on a novel. It just does not seem like the right thing to do. But from what he has let slip about this latest work, I suspect the American university is about to suffer a staggering expose. Wolfe will leave his readers not only outraged but laughing — that is the cruelest cut of all.
I’ll be first in line when it hits the streets.