Hari Kunzru, 15 October 1998
For Tom Wolfe, the New Journalism was defined by the appearance of all kinds of literary devices in non-fiction writing, but chiefly by an unwillingness to adopt the traditional journalistic tone of polite neutrality. He made the business of voice appear as if it was simply a matter of style, a confident new generation trying on a linguistic version of one of his own well-cut suits. While this surface stylishness characterises Wolfe’s own voice, with its caustic social observations and bravura displays of writerly technique, for other writers the chance to speak in an unmediated first person fulfilled a more urgent necessity. It allowed Michael Herr, on assignment in Vietnam for Esquire and Rolling Stone, to write about his own terror and confusion as he drifted through the war zone, and it allowed Joan Didion, in The White Album, to weave details of her anxious upscale-Californian life into a startling account of the collapse of Sixties idealism.