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Becoming The Man in the White Suit: The Tom Wolfe Papers


February 13th, 2015 - March 1st, 2015

Becoming the Man in the White SuitGet a first look at highlights from the impressive archive of author, journalist, and cultural commentator Tom Wolfe in a free display at The New York Public Library.  The display features nearly two dozen selections from the archive, which was acquired by the Library in 2013. Among the items displayed are:

  •  Correspondence from John Glenn offering corrections to The Right Stuff; Wolfe’s meditation on post-war masculinity and his own immersion into the NASA and U.S. Air Force culture.
  • A letter to himself about The Bonfire of the Vanities, which shows Wolfe's intentions in writing the novel that was serialized in Rolling Stone magazine. The outline also alludes to the racial issues in New York City that propelled him to complete the narrative.
  • A steno book Wolfe carried to "Black Panther Night" at Leonard Bernstein's apartment, which helped shape his 1970 story in New York magazine, entitled "These Radical Chic Evenings" -- a term he coined.
  • Notes from Wolfe's first interview with Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead which would be used for The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.
  • A letter from Hunter S. Thompson enclosing his recently published novel - Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

“We have all been Tom Wolfe characters,” says Thomas Lannon, Acting Charles J. Liebman Curator of Manuscripts. “From behind his notepad, Wolfe watched Americans of various backgrounds sway to the beat of ambition and imagination. We hope the selected literary and biographical fragments on display spark new interest in all of Wolfe's books as they provide lucid snapshots of America as it reached for the stratosphere and landed near the Millennium.”

A frequent patron of the Library, as well as a long-time New York City resident and chronicler of its culture, Wolfe’s rich literary archive was a welcome addition to the Manuscripts and Archives Division, and was acquired with a generous gift from NYPL Trustee Katharine Rayner.

Researchers can access the Tom Wolfe papers from the Manuscripts and Archives Division in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building.  A finding aid can be found at


And for even more Tom Wolfe, listen to the latest episode of The New York Public Library Podcast.  On the heels of the success of his bestselling 2012 novel “Back to Blood,” Wolfe came to NYPL to discuss identity, beliefs, and the weaving together of journalism and fiction.  Subscribe to The New York Public Library Podcast iTunes, Stitcher, or Soundcloud to hear more compelling conversations from writers, artists and thinkers.


The Tom Wolfe Papers were acquired through the generosity of Katharine J. Rayner.
Support for The New York Public Library’s Exhibitions Program has been provided by Celeste Bartos, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, Mahnaz Ispahani Bartos and Adam Bartos Exhibitions Fund, and Jonathan Altman.