For our fortieth anniversary, the editors of Rolling Stone have interviewed 20 artists and leaders who helped shape our time. Over the next four weeks, every day, we’ll be debuting exclusive audio clips from the Q&As, giving you unparalleled access to some of the most important personalities in history.
Today we present The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test author and New Journalism forefather Tom Wolfe. One of the truly brilliant critical minds of the last half-century, Wolfe helped revolutionize the non-fiction genre. A frequent contributor to Rolling Stone over the years, Wolfe and his fictional novel The Bonfire of The Vanities enjoyed an exclusive serial run in the magazine. For our fortieth anniversary issue, Mark Binelli sits down with Wolfe to discuss the 1960s, his firsthand experience of the madness of Ken Kesey, witnessing the Apollo 17 launch and his thoughts on God. Listen to three excerpts from the interview, and for the full profile, pick up your copy of the new issue, on stand now.
Wolfe, a strong supporter of George W. Bush, argues that our country is in desperate need for more religion: “Everyone thinks, “This is great, we’re free from the constraints of religion.” They’re nuts. They’re going to be begging for it in another ten years. You can’t just decide you’re going to believe in God, it has to be real.”
Wolfe talks about the time he spent with Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters: “Kesey said to me, ‘Why don’t you put the notebook and the pen away and just be here, and then write about it.’ The idea was, join in, take some acid, have a few trips, and then write about it.”
Wolfe details some of the techniques behind his trail-blazing writing style: “I’ve taken what I think of as the ‘man from Mars’ approach. I’ve just arrived from Mars, I have no idea what you’re doing, I’m very interested.”
Check back tomorrow for the next installment of our twenty-part audio interviews, featuring some of the most iconic and influential pop culture figures of the last 40 years. Want a hint at tomorrow’s interviewee? Which former President, being interviewed by Tom Brokaw, told us this:
“Our country has developed into one that has extreme differences between the richest and poorest people. Those levels are becoming very gross â€” but with the progress of iPods and the electronic era, music can actually break down and maybe even merge the cultural life between difference economic levels.”