57 pages 1 hour read

Tom Wolfe

The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test

Nonfiction | Biography | Adult | Published in 1968

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Background

Literary Context: New Journalism

New Journalism was a nonfiction literary movement in the 1960s and 1970s that included authors such as Tom Wolfe, Hunter S. Thompson, Norman Mailer, Joan Didion, Truman Capote, and Gay Talese, who is frequently cited as the movement’s founder. The New Journalism authors used techniques associated with fiction—including dialogue, character development, and plot arcs–to present their investigative pieces. In style, too, they were influenced by literary fiction of the era. Wolfe, in particular, has been praised for his energetic and creative prose.

Talese’s 1966 article Frank Sinatra Has a Cold, published in Esquire, is sometimes considered the seminal work of the New Journalism. Much like Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Talese’s article eschews objective reporting and focuses on Talese’s involvement in the story as he pursues interviews with the people around Sinatra, who himself refused to be interviewed.

The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test stands not only as one of the first book-length examples of New Journalism, but also as one its finest. Wolfe’s style throughout the work represents the already mentioned characteristics of New Journalism, but also incorporates passages switching from prose to verse and back again, unique uses of punctuation and italics,

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