It was the tiny mummies. It was the zzzzzzzzzzzzzz Acid Tests! It was “The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby” in its original context. It was never The Right Stuff, but he knew that.

It was about the scene and the sass and that casual elegance he affected, like a duke on holiday or a particularly stylish ghost.

The suits — so white against the navy tie — and that casual dangle of the hand. The pocketwatch, so subtle. The sp-sp-sp-sp-spats. Spats! Would you get a look at these things! They cover the whole damn shoe. Like a grandpa! Like a great-grandpa! Like a Prohibition-era dandy with those freakin’ spats![pullquote]

Genius? One would never use that word but… in this case… maybe?


But then there was the work.

It was the way he just sort of ;;;;;;;;;;;;;;; broke it apart and ]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]] deconstructed it all. Cubist! Impressionistic! This dandy can write!

Also: Disrespectful! Subversive! Who-does-this-guy-think-he-is?

Genius? One would never use that word but… in this case… maybe?

He cared not for your cocktail crowd, your fundraiser bunnies, your -0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0- tweedy, literate types that c-r-e-e-p through New York society like sharp-toothed eels that have taken over a reef — not at first, when they ignored him. Shunned him. Mocked him even as he mocked them in thousands of words every week, in ratty newsprint with the rest of the bestubbled upstarts, available on the streets of New York City for a dime a copy.

And definitely not after. Definitely not.

It was the books. Those ………. Damn ………. Acid Tests. The whole point was to freak everybody out, and then they started putting it on high school reading lists, for crying out loud. So Bonfire put a thumb in their eye. They weren’t supposed to like it! But, of course, they did. Charlotte Simmons was an indictment for chrissakes.

And can we just forget about The Right Stuff for a minute?

And all he really wanted to do was write essays. Essays! Those cute little, piece-of-my-mind, look-what-I-learned-today, shame-on-you dispatches, more antiquated even than the spats.

He ridiculed them as backwards ran their infinitives, as they flexed their sternocleidomastoid muscles, as they hooked up amid the F-word patois, as they declared themselves Masters of the Universe.

And that was the best stuff of all.

Goodbye, Tom Wolfe. Thanks for everything.


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