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New York Public Library announces acquisition of American author Tom Wolfe archive
File photo of Mr. Wolfe at the Library, before a Nov. 2012 appearance in their conversation series LIVE from the NYPL. Photo: Jori Klein.

NEW YORK, NY.- The New York Public Library is acquiring the archive of influential American author, journalist and cultural commentator Tom Wolfe.

The impressive collection includes about 100 linear feet of manuscript drafts and outlines for most of Wolfe’s works, including Bonfire of the Vanities, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, and The Right Stuff, as well as notebooks filled with interviews, drawings, research and correspondence. The collection will be part of the Library’s world renowned research division, and will provide a window through which researchers can approach broader studies of journalism literature, culture, politics and life in New York City.

The major acquisition was approved by the Library’s Board of Trustees at its Nov. 20 meeting. After the papers are processed by archivists and preservationists, they will be made available for researchers at the Library’s Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street.

“Tom Wolfe’s unique and innovative style of reporting, as well as his insightful and sharp observations, have made him one of the most notable writers of post-war America,” said NYPL President Tony Marx. “This incredibly rich archive will give researchers a wealth of new information on his writings, but also on broader topics such as journalism, politics, and culture. The New York Public Library is the perfect place for these works, considering Mr. Wolfe’s deep and meaningful ties to New York City.”

"I couldn't be more delighted,” said Tom Wolfe. “I've inhabited The New York Public Library so steadily since the very day I came to New York in 1962 to work – all of three blocks away – at The New York Herald Tribune, I feel like my archive is not moving anywhere. It's going home."

Some general highlights from the collection include:

• Dozens of notebooks for each of his two major works of non-fiction: The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and The Right Stuff.

• Notes, notebooks and drafts that comprehensively document Wolfe’s development as a writer, his innovations in journalistic methodology, as well as the composition and creation of particular works. Wolfe’s notebooks offer ample evidence for investigating the techniques he employed to achieve some of the characteristic devices of New Journalism, including scene-by-scene construction and extensive character dialog.

• Over 10,000 letters dated 1955 to the present, which range from responses to his work (sometimes from his subjects) to personal notes from friends such as Hunter S. Thompson and William F. Buckley to requests for interviews and speaking arrangements.

• Original drafts of Bonfire of the Vanities, which were first serialized in Rolling Stone magazine. The notebooks and drafts show the transformation of his works from outline to published work, and include original research that did not make it into any of Wolfe’s published writings.

The Library was able to acquire the $2.15 million collection – which will be part of the Manuscripts and Archives Division – with a generous donation from NYPL Trustee Katharine Rayner.

"The Library deeply appreciates the continued support of Trustee Katharine Rayner, whose love of the institution knows no bounds, and whose generosity allows us to add this incredibly important archive to our world-renowned research collections," Marx said.

The Library’s research collections include papers and archives from writers such as Charles Dickens, Jack Kerouac, Maya Angelou, William Burroughs, and countless others.

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