Books

The Kingdom of Speech

Tom Wolfe

'A great journalist with a whip-like satirical prose style… Wolfe’s great gift is to make the heavy seem light and this book is such an entertaining polemic that I read it in a day and immediately wanted to read it again.' - Bryan Appleyard, Sunday Times

Tom Wolfe, whose legend began in journalism, takes us on an eye-opening journey through language. The Kingdom of Speech is a paradigm-shifting argument that speech - not evolution - is responsible for humanity's complex societies and achievements.

From Alfred Russel Wallace, the Englishman who beat Darwin to the theory of natural selection but later renounced it, and through the controversial work of modern-day anthropologist Daniel Everett, who defies the current wisdom that language is hard-wired in humans, Wolfe examines the solemn, long-faced, laugh-out-loud zig-zags of Darwinism, old and Neo, and finds it irrelevant here in our Kingdom of Speech.

Back to Blood

Tom Wolfe

As the police boat speeds across Miami’s Biscayne Bay, the scene is set for Officer Nestor Camacho’s great moment of heroism. Except that in this feverous melting pot of a city, Nestor's one act of heroism can be seen as an utter betrayal of his Cuban roots.

As Nestor’s world disintegrates – his family disowns him, he can’t get a Cuban coffee without ugly stares, and his girlfriend Magdalena leaves him for her sex-addiction psychiatrist boss – his quest to right the wrongs brings him into contact with the full panorama of modern Miami. The Cuban mayor, a Yale-marinated journalist, the black police chief, a Haitian professor whose ambitions to be French are thwarted by his Creole-spouting son, the clueless baying art-buyers and an Anglo billionaire porn addict all come up for scrutiny in Tom Wolfe’s high-energy, scrupulous and hilarious reckoning with our times.

Hooking Up

Tom Wolfe

In Hooking Up Tom Wolfe ranges from coast to coast, observing the 'lurid carnival actually taking place in the mightiest country on earth in the year 2000' - everything from teenage sexual manners to how genetics and neuroscience are changing the way we regard ourselves. Also included in this collection are some of his most classic and enduring pieces of journalism, and 'Ambush art at Fort Bragg', his fiercely satirical novella about sting TV.

Funny, often savagely so, hard-hitting and wise, Wolfe remains a unique master-chronicler of America and its future.

A Man In Full

Tom Wolfe

Charlie Croker was once a fabled college football star and is now a late-middle-aged Atlanta real estate entrepeneur-turned conglomerate king, whose expansionist ambitions and outsize ego have at last hit up against reality. Charlie has a 28,000 acre quail shooting plantation, a young and demanding second wife and a half-empty downtown tower with a staggering load of debt.

Tom Wolfe was the razor sharp chronicler of the 1980s and now boldly turns to dissect greed-obsessed America on the cusp of the millenium.

The Bonfire of the Vanities

Tom Wolfe

Sherman McCoy is a WASP, bond trader and self-appointed 'Master of the Universe'. He has a fashionable wife, a Park Avenue apartment and a Southern mistress. His spectacular fall begins the moment he is involved in a hit-and-run accident in the Bronx. Prosecutors, newspaper hacks, politicians and clergy close in on him, determined to bring him down.

The Bonfire of the Vanities is a caustic satire on the money-feverish Eighties. This exuberant novel cemented Wolfe's reputation as the foremost chronicler of his age.

I Am Charlotte Simmons

Tom Wolfe

Dupont University - the Olympian halls of learning housing the cream of America's youth, the roseate Gothic spires and manicured lawns suffused with tradition... Or so it appears to beautiful, brilliant Charlotte Simmons, a sheltered freshman from Sparta, North Carolina, who has come here on a full scholarship. But Charlotte soon learns that for the upper-crust coeds of Dupont, sex, Cool, and kegs trump academic achievement every time.

As Charlotte encounters Dupont's elite - her roommate, Beverly, a fleshy, privileged Brahmin in lusty pursuit of lacrosse players; Jojo Johanssen, the only white starting player on Dupont's godlike basketball team; the Young Turk of Saint Ray fraternity, Hoyt Thorpe, whose heady sense of entitlement and social domination is clinched by his accidental brawl with a bodyguard for the governor of California; and Adam Gellin, one of the Millennium Mutants who run the university's 'independent' newspaper and who consider themselves the last bastion of intellectual endeavour on campus - she gains a new, revelatory sense of her own power, that of her difference and of her very innocence. But little does she realize that she will act as a catalyst in all of their lives.

The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby

Tom Wolfe

In this, his first book and one of the landmarks of the New Journalism, Tom Wolfe managed to look at the American scene of the early 1960s afresh and to zero in on the more exotic forms of status-seeking then in vogue from New York to Los Angeles.

In the dances, bouffant hairdos, stock-car racing and rock concerts, Wolfe found a unique American energy, and the incandescent style that produced The Right Stuff and The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test is already in evidence. In the title essay - Wolfe's first magazine article - he eulogizes the flamboyant 'kustomized kars' California teens constructed with artistic dedication. And there's more - Phil Spector, Cassius Clay, Las Vegas, the Nanny Mafia, Why Doormen hate Volkswagens. Classic Wolfe!

The Right Stuff

Tom Wolfe

What is it, I wondered, that makes a man willing to sit on top of an enormous Roman Candle, such as a Redstone, Atlas, Titan, or Saturn rocket, and wait for someone to light the fuse? I decided on the simplest approach possible. I would ask a few of the astronauts and find out...

The men had it. Yeager. Conrad. Grissom. Glenn. Heroes. The first Americans in space - battling the Russians for control of the heavens, putting their lives on the line. The women had it. While Mr Wonderful was aloft, it tore your heart out that the Hero's Wife, down on the ground, had to perform with the whole world watching. The Right Stuff. It's the quality beyond bravery, beyond courage.

The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test

Tom Wolfe

I looked around and people's faces were distorted...lights were flashing everywhere...the screen at the end of the room had three or four different films on it at once, and the strobe light was flashing faster than it had been...the band was playing but I couldn't hear the music...people were dancing...someone came up to me and I shut my eyes and with a machine he projected images on the back of my eye-lids...I sought out a person I trusted and he laughed and told me that the Kool-Aid had been spiked and that I was beginning my first LSD experience...

Biography

Tom Wolfe is the author of more than a dozen books, among them The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, The Right Stuff, The Bonfire of the Vanities, A Man in Full, I Am Charlotte Simmons, and Back to Blood. He received the National Book Foundation's 2010 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. He lives in New York City.