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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Ultimate Bathroom Book
This is a collection of short tales about contemporary New York and America written in the early 1960s. As you might expect, Wolfe is a little more rough around the edges here, and so there is a little hit and miss. However, The Last American Hero, about driver Junior Johnson and the early beginnings of NASCAR, is breathtaking - here are the true buds of Wolfe's ideas on...
Published on May 31, 2006 by jjlaw

versus
2.0 out of 5 stars Its Tom Wolfe!!
Some ok stories, but not Tom Wolfe's best work. Too many so-so tales and writings. Not a first choice for his works.
Published 7 months ago by Gary W. Chandler


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Ultimate Bathroom Book, May 31, 2006
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This is a collection of short tales about contemporary New York and America written in the early 1960s. As you might expect, Wolfe is a little more rough around the edges here, and so there is a little hit and miss. However, The Last American Hero, about driver Junior Johnson and the early beginnings of NASCAR, is breathtaking - here are the true buds of Wolfe's ideas on American Masculinity that were to flower in The Right Stuff.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Get It If You Can Find It - Fantastic Read!, November 20, 2004
By 
Tom Wolfe began his career as a "New Journalist" with this book back in 1965, and when I discovered it some thirty years later I instantly became a fan of what this man is sellin'. The articles collected in here range a wide variety of topics, and even the duller pieces are punctuated with traces of brilliance.

The most memorable for me (seeing as I haven't read it in a few years) deal with some interesting and illuminating topics, both of their time and somehow relevant today:

The title piece dealing with custom cars (what's the hottest reality show staple besides weddings and home decor?)

Phil Spector's oddness (chilling in light of his recent legal troubles)

The beginnings of what would become NASCAR (now the biggest sport in the South)

Cassius Clay AKA Muhammed Ali (the role of the black athelete in American society is still being worked out)

Vegas' rise from the desert

There are countless others, products of their time and yet transcending eras to speak to us today. Again, not every piece works, but it's a credit to the book as a whole that I can't recall which ones were failures.

If you can find this, get it. You'll look at thinks differently afterwords...
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Far out, Tom Wolfe! Real buttonholes!, April 7, 2014
By 
Ricardo Mio (New Jersey, U.S.A.) - See all my reviews
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When I was in college, the heroes of the journalism department were Vietnam reporters David Halberstam and Neil Sheehan, and the so-called "New Journalism" reporters: Hunter Thompson, Gay Talese, and Tom Wolfe. Today, the best known is Tom Wolfe, thanks to books like "The Right Stuff." His first book was "The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby" published in 1965. It's an anthology of his first magazine articles, that appeared in Esquire and other periodicals.

The magazine article that first attracted attention was "There goes [Vroom! Vroom!] That Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby" about the California custom car culture. At the time, Wolfe didn't know a carburetor from a muffler, being a New Yorker without a car. However, a week in Southern California changed all that. And how. He quickly spotted the best and the brightest of the customizers was a goateed beatnik-type named "Big Daddy" Ed Roth. Roth's cross-town rival George Barris built far more custom cars than Roth, but Roth was the wild visionary--highly-intelligent, articulate, and a little crazy. Wolfe wrote about Roth with insight and understanding that the trade magazines like "Hot Rod," "Car Craft" and "Rod and Custom" apparently lacked.

It was the same thing with "The Last American Hero." Wolfe went down to North Carolina, spent a week with good-old boy NASCAR driver Junior Johnson, and returned with an insight into Johnson and Southern-style stock car racing that completely eluded magazines that covered the sport, among them "Car and Driver," and "Motor Trend."

Wolfe wrote about fashion, too. In "The Secret Vice," he told how Lyndon Johnson woke up one morning and realized that John Kennedy was not only smarter than he, but better dressed. Johnson zeroed in on the sleeve of Kennedy's custom-made suits, and realized the button holes on the sleeve were real: they actually buttoned and unbuttoned. The buttons on the sleeve of Johnson's off-the-rack Sears and Roebuck suits, on the other hand, were sewn on top of the fabric, like some decoration. Old Lyndon wanted real buttonholes! He flew to London (where Kennedy's suits were custom-made), walked into the first tailor he could find, and said, "Make me a suit with real buttonholes! I want to look like a British ambassador!"

All the first great magazine articles are here, including "The Fifth Beatle" about brash New York DJ Murray the K, "The Peppermint Lounge" where the Beatles twisted the night away, "Loverboy of the Bourgeoise" about Cary Grant, "The Marvelous Mouth " about Muhammad Ali, "The New Art Gallery Society," "The Nanny Mafia" and on and on. Classics, everyone. And a delight to read--and reread. As one critic put it, "Tom Wolf is a (blankety-blank) joy."
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful peak at the pre-sixties, March 17, 2009
Curiously, I picked up a copy of this book right before Christmas. My wife gave me a copy of Boom! by Tom Brokaw for Christmas. I decided to read Tom Wolfe first. I call it the pre-sixties in my review title ... this is because so many people now think of the sixties in terms of the late sixties counter-culture. This books paints the underlayer of what was going on before all that hippie/stop-the-war/change-the-world/woodstock stuff even started. The revolution was already happening and we didn't even know it yet. Nostalgic? Not really. This is a glimpse into Wolfe developing that all-seeing Tom Wolfe inner eye to look past what was happening to see and describe what was REALLY happening. This is an amazing book, very vibrant and entertaining and as much a context piece as it is an historical artifact. You want to understand the sixties? Read this book as a primer.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars does he think of the same things all the time?, March 20, 1997
By A Customer
If this is your first venture into the world of Wolfe this is a nostalgic reminder of the good old days and the nuances which accompanied the people and the celebrities of that time. Some the stories are samey with the customised car theme recurring but that can be lived with. Essentially it is just a compendium of his articles which were then published. Nothing fascinating in that. What is fascinating is that even though the book was written in the sixties many of his themes appear in his book 'The Bonfire Of The Vanities'. For example, there is an article on the obssessive nature of people and tailored clothes (see Sherman McCoy) and the nanny mafia (Kramer this time). The general theme is the study of the superficiality of human nature (which is the main social commentary evident in 'Bonfire').
This book on its one is a good read but is made a great read when read after or before 'Bonfire'
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This book may be better than I felt it to be, November 2, 2004
These essays were the debut of a truly new voice. I not only did not know what to make of most of them when I first read them I really did not understand what the writer was getting at. But at the same time I saw they were filled with brilliant social observation, great wit, a certain humor and an effort at putting the phonys of this world down a peg. Like all really sharp social criticism these works have an element of cruelty in them. So let's say it is really a matter of taste that I did not like them so much. But as I said before it was clear to me then that the writer was tremendously inventive and that he was hitting many real targets in a strong and effective way.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars YIPPEE! Tommy boy sends up the horsemen!, May 15, 1997
By A Customer
In much of his work, TW explicitly mocks
pretentious Easterners. Here, he accomplishes the
same task by finding Kar Kustomizers. Las Vegas
architects. Stock car drivers. Genuine culture
creators all, who seek excellence unpretentiously,
who are so far removed from Establishments
definitions that they probably don't even hear
the skitters echoing out from New York.

Tom Wolfe returns some of the skitters to the
Big Apple. And as you meet these very cool
folks, I think you'll find the reflexive cynicism
permeating so much of our mass media, and be
refreshed at the vigor and genuine moral courage
of America and its citizens.
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4.0 out of 5 stars In The Time Of "Gonzo" Journalism, June 15, 2010
The subject of "Gonzo journalism", a journalistic literary trend started in the 1960s, and its most well-known practitioner, the late Doctor Hunter S. Thompson, has received much ink in this space over the past several years. The gist of this journalistic literary trend is that the writer gets "down and dirty" with whatever he or she is writing about and becomes an aspect of the story, one way or another. Now this notion set the traditionalists who worked under the so-called objectivist theory, "nothing but the facts, Jack" back on their heels. Of course, we all knew, and know, that this traditional approach was honored in the breech more than the observance and that old Hunter was merely rubbing everyone's face in it. However, Hunter Thompson was not the only one trying to got to "edge city" in his writing in what now has become, academically translated, called the "new journalism". The writer under review, Tom Wolfe, also tried in a less zany way to break out of the traditional mold as well.

While Thompson was more than happy to tweak "edge city" Brother Wolfe, by his whole social existence, and by something deep down in his training never really got all the way there. He never really pressed the issue of his own involvement in the story, nor would it perhaps have worked for him, but surely off of this early work he is onto something different from the run of the mill "straight" journalism of those days. Heck, even Hunter Thompson, argued, and argued strenuously, that most of his attempts at `gonzo" didn't work either. Here some of Wolfe's entries are brilliant, some much less so but that seems par for the course when one is experimenting with new forms.

For today's reader of this material it may be very, very hard to judge what Brother Wolfe was up to since, with few exceptions, most of the subject matter is very time-sensitive. Except maybe that "good old boy" piece he did on the legendary stock car racer Junior Johnson, "The Last American Hero." On that one he "kicked out the jams" to get the flavor of the social milieu that supported, and today still forms the core support of those stock car races. Another beauty of a story is the title one, "The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby", about the "hot rod' and customizing car craze and its culture among male teenagers that emerged after World War II. That sub-culture is still there, buried in the bushes, but in an age of computer-controlled cars that "mystique" has lost its edge.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Its Tom Wolfe!!, June 30, 2014
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Some ok stories, but not Tom Wolfe's best work. Too many so-so tales and writings. Not a first choice for his works.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Classic Wolfe..., September 5, 2013
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If you're a Tom Wolfe fan, this is obviously a must-read. The uninitiated can use this as a fine example of New Journalism.
The strongest pieces are up front, specifically on Las Vegas and the beginnings of stock car racing and the title-piece on kustom car culture in Southern California.
The second half of the book lags a bit as most of the stories about the upper-crust of 1960s New York fall into the we-get-the-idea category. Upon modern reading, some of the material seems dated - winkle-picker boots, etc. - but charmingly so. This is a great snapshot of Wolfe and the send-up style that would come to define him.
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