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The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby Paperback – October 5, 1999

28 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

The "streamline baby" in Tom Wolfe's 1965 debut book is a hot rod, but the car's candy colors and wild lines can't match the prose style Wolfe devised to describe them. The title essay--Wolfe's first magazine article--launched the New Journalism, partly because its original title was "There Goes (Varoom! Varoom!) That Kandy-Kolored (Thphhhhhh!) Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby (Rahghhh!) Around the Bend (Brummmmmmmmmmmmmmm)..." His voice was more shocking than any subculture he uncovered. Until Wolfe (Ph.D., Yale), nobody struck gold by applying Ph.D.-speak to lowbrow subjects. Kurt Vonnegut famously called this an "excellent book by a genius who will do anything to get attention."

Now that everybody does what Wolfe did, his early essays smack less of genius. But attention must be paid to this pioneering peek into King Pop's tomb. The most startling thing is how soberly sensible most of the prose now appears, except for the title of the first essay, "Las Vegas (What?) Las Vegas (Can't Hear You! Too Noisy) Las Vegas!!!" which anticipates the far superior Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Mostly, these articles seem like straightforward introductions to some of the signal figures of the early '60s: hot-rod designer Big Daddy Roth, surf guitarist Dick Dale, teen recording tycoon Phil Spector, Andy Warhol debutante Baby Jane Holzer, the Cassius Clay-era Muhammad Ali. We even glimpse the Beatles in a profile of the yappy DJ Murray the K in "The Fifth Beatle."

The last half of the book focuses more on New York and its denizens' endless combat for social status. The last piece, "The Big League Complex," is like a 1964 warm-up exercise for The Bonfire of the Vanities. --Tim Appelo --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Might well be required reading in courses with names like American studies."--Time Magazine

"I'm always rereading Tom Wolfe's The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby."--David Gates

"Tom Wolfe is a terrific writer."--The Washington Monthly
"Wolfe can do things with words and settings that few writers are capable of matching."--Tom Walker, The Denver Post
"The man's done the impossible. He--Yes!--understands America!"--Houston Chronicle

"His eye and ear for detailed observation are incomparable; and observation is to the satirist what bullets are to a gun."--The Boston Sunday Globe
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam; 1St Edition edition (October 5, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553380583
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553380583
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,902,468 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Tom Wolfe is the author of more than a dozen books, among them such contemporary classics as The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, The Right Stuff, The Bonfire of the Vanities, and A Man in Full. A native of Richmond, Virginia, he earned his B.A. at Washington and Lee University and a Ph.D. in American studies at Yale. He lives in New York City.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By jjlaw on May 31, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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 By Trevor Seigler on November 20, 2004
Format: Paperback
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Ricardo Mio on April 7, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By thefensk on March 17, 2009
Format: Paperback
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 By A Customer on March 20, 1997
Format: Paperback
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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