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

4.3 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com 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.

Review

“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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The latest book club pick from Oprah
"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent novel chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more

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: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,277,206 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Of course Mr. Wolfe has produced another lapidary exposition on American culture, but what is so refreshing is that there is no condescending in these pieces. Vegas, hot rods, etc. you name it and if it falls under Mr. Wolfe's scrutiny it will be treated, if not with respect, then with understanding. This book like all his works is about AMERICA as only TOM WOLFE can render it and the hell with that early Frenchman, well almost.

If Wolfe seems too keen on displaying his erudite at times almost encyclopedic literary and historical antecedents, it is only because he is and was trained to be that way. Unfortunately his critics on E 43 st in Manhattan will never get over this. But let us face he does write for the common in an uncommon fashion.
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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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Format: Paperback
Reading The Kandy Kolored Tangerine Flake Streamline Baby (1965) in 2015, it's hard to appreciate just how unusual Tom Wolfe's approach to writing seemed at the time, at least for a journalist. Today, such individualistic stylistic flourishes are old hat; then, they were "the new journalism."

TKKTFSB collects a number of Wolfe's essays and articles from the late 50s and early 60s into a kind of catch-all grab bag loosely organized into several topical sections. For an early 21st century reader (or at least this one) the most interesting thing about the book is the view of life in America on the cusp of what we now regard as "the Sixties," which really was the second half of the 60s (roughly 1965-1969). Wolfe looks at underground phenomena (stock car racing, the California car culture, teenage mores, rock music, the New York Bohemian scene, etc.) that would come to have broad cultural impact in the coming years.

I especially enjoyed his portrayals of New York disc jockey Murray the K ("The Fifth Beatle") and record mogul/Wall of Sound impresario Phil Spector, two figures who at the time were regarded as exploiting a minor, inexplicable fad called rock 'n roll music. Similarly, stock car and drag racing were seen as the obsessions of dismissible subcultures (teenagers and hillbillies). Today, of course, they are huge mainstream industries.

Wolfe is an excellent writer and astute observer, so his impressions are well worth reading. While some of the pieces here are better than others, all are worth the time it takes to read them, whether it's a portrait of Las Vegas, Cary Grant, pre-Muhammed Ali Cassius Clay or the tyranny of nannies in New York City.
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