Note to self: Return often to your late writing hero’s greatest legacy.

By Alec Hogg

My world, like those of many who write for a living, turned a little dimmer this week with the passing of inimitable journalist and novelist Tom Wolfe. He died in New York on Monday, aged 88, shortly after being hospitalised with an infection.

Journalist and novelist Tom Wolfe

Wolfe is best known for novels The Right Stuff and Bonfire of the Vanities which Hollywood made into big screen blockbusters. But successful as they were, neither did justice to his story-telling genius. While the movies were absorbing, the books are simply riveting.

For wordsmiths, however, Wolfe’s defining legacy was co-creation of New Journalism, whose intention was to make all non-fiction writing “as absorbing and gripping as the novel and short story…”. His inspirational anthology featuring the best of New Journalism, published in 1973, is guaranteed to unclog creative juices.

Sadly, New Journalism was thrown into literature’s dumpster by an age of attention deficit and 140 character blasts. We should demand better. So I’ll be visiting Wolfe’s work more often. Finding inspiration where it flows abundantly. Knowing that like a single stranded starfish tossed back into the sea, it will make a difference. Somewhere.

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