Tom Wolfe's America
Heroes, Pranksters, and Fools
by Kevin T. McEneaney
April 2009, 197pp, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-0-313-36544-7
$65, £50, 57€, A90
eBook Available: 978-0-313-36545-4
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

McEneaney offers a colorful overview of the life and works of the popular writer Tom Wolfe.

While The Right Stuff and The Bonfire of the Vanities remain perhaps his best-known works, Tom Wolfe’s journalism and fiction continues to enjoy a large audience, perhaps chiefly because of the variety of his subjects and his controversial approach to them. Here, McEneaney offers an account of the man and his works, explaining along the way Wolfe’s use of irony, his obsessive themes, and even his use of pranks. More comprehensive in scope than any preceding book on Wolfe, it offers accurate and accessible commentary based upon what Wolfe admits about his own work.

In this new book, Wolfe’s work is put in journalistic and literary context. The reliability of Wolfe’s journalism is discussed, especially when there are alternative narrations to events he has depicted. McEneaney also examines the Wolfe’s use of pranks that he plays on readers at times, and uncovers the influences on Wolfe that have contributed to his unique style. Finally, the author discusses Wolfe’s impact on other writers. Readers will gain access into Wolfe’s world through this detailed and colorful work.


Outstanding Academic Title, 2009—Choice, January 1, 2010


"Following a short biographical chapter on American contemporary writer, Tom Wolfe, McEneaney (Marist College, Poughkeepsie, New York) offers scholars an analysis of Wolfe’s journalism, essays, and novels. The text emphasizes the literary qualities of Wolfe’s journalism and fiction as they relate to his sociological perspective on American society, and the questions he raises about social trends, patriotism, religion, manners and mores against the backdrop of American history and society. McEneaney also considers how Wolfe uses influences from French, English and past American literature in an original way that comments on American society; his peculiar and unique use of ironic counterpoint; and the relationship of Wolfe’s satiric strain to his understanding of private and public morality."—Reference & Research Book News, August 1, 2009

"Free of jargon, full of careful analysis of Wolfe's writing and his 'America,' appreciative of the serious intentions (for good or evil) behind every 'prank' and holy 'fool' from the Beats to the Black Panthers and the neoconservatives, McEneaney's well-written, well-researched, and well-balanced study of a controversial, often-underrated writer focuses attention on Wolfe and on the rich array of American literary adventures that followed WW II. . . . Highly recommended. All readers."—Choice, December 1, 2009

"This is a seminal study-one that should be required reading in college courses on American literature. Displaying a dazzling command of writers and writing from antiquity to modern times, Mr. McEneaney navigates the complexities of Wolfe's characters in a journey that leads us ultimately to an understanding of that most elusive character, Mr. Wolfe himself. A virtuoso performance!"—Dr. Debra M. Szybinski,
New York University

"Impressive. Makes me want to read more of Tom Wolfe."—David Stanford, Editor, The Sandbox

"Kevin McEneaney hits the nail smack on the cuticle with his refreshingly readable study of Tom Wolfe's work, itself a social and literary history of one of America's most colorfully anarchic stretches. McEneaney portrays both Wolfe and Wolfe's subject with the thoughtful depth both merit."—Bob Baldock
Producer, KPFA Radio
S.F. Bay Area

"Kevin McEneaney is one of the most important contemporary American poets—but what readers may not know is that he is also a perceptive and penetrating literary critic. The breadth of his reading, the instant range of reference which he can bring to focus, and the fine objectivity of his judgment make him a superbly equipped commentator of contemporary writing. Truly, he is dauntingly equipped to discuss and assess the work of Tom Wolfe—in fact, the combination McEneaney on Wolfe is irresistible. This is a sharply readable, knowing, and quietly scholarly assessment of the iconic American journalist and novelist. An important book.' "—Des Egan
Author of Collected Poems, Prose II
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