111+ Best Tom Wolfe Quotes: Exclusive Selection

Thomas Clayton Wolfe was an American novelist of the early twentieth century. Wolfe wrote four lengthy novels as well as many short stories, dramatic works, and novellas. He is known for mixing highly original, poetic, rhapsodic, and impressionistic prose with autobiographical writing. The most inspiring, insightful, and wittiest Tom Wolfe quotes will fire up your brain while making you laugh.

If you’re searching for wisest quotes by famous authors that perfectly capture what you’d like to say or just want to feel inspired yourself, browse through an amazing collection of unforgettable F. Scott Fitzgerald quotes, motivational Harlan Ellison quotes, and Robert Fulghum quotes.

Most Famous Tom Wolfe Quotes

Miami is a melting pot in which none of the stones melt. They rattle around. – Tom Wolfe

Love is the ultimate expression of the will to live. – Tom Wolfe

Everybody, everybody everywhere, has his own movie going, his own scenario, and everybody is acting his movie out like mad, only most people don’t know that is what they’re trapped by, their little script. – Tom Wolfe

The problem with fiction, it has to be plausible. That’s not true with non-fiction. – Tom Wolfe

I do novels a bit backward. I look for a situation, a milieu first, and then I wait to see who walks into it. – Tom Wolfe

The first newspaper I worked on was the ‘Springfield Union’ in Springfield, Massachusetts. I wrote over a hundred letters to newspapers asking for work and got three responses, two no’s. – Tom Wolfe

Television reporters aren’t really called reporters. They are called researchers. And that’s really all they are. – Tom Wolfe

If you label it this, then it can’t be that. – Tom Wolfe

Nonfiction is never going to die. – Tom Wolfe

I’ve never met an American who wanted to build an empire. – Tom Wolfe

A glorious place, a glorious age, I tell you! A very Neon renaissance – And the myths that actually touched you at that time – not Hercules, Orpheus, Ulysses and Aeneas – but Superman, Captain Marvel, and Batman. – Tom Wolfe

So many people in this country have a dual loyalty. They have loyalty to America, but they also are determined to have their parade up Fifth Avenue once a year… a Cuban parade or a Puerto Rican parade – many other countries. So they really don’t forget. – Tom Wolfe

Driving a stock car does not require much handling ability, at least not as compared to Grand Prix racing, because the tracks are simple banked ovals and there is almost no shifting of gears. So, qualifying becomes a test of raw nerve – of how fast a man is willing to take a curve. – Tom Wolfe

They were…well, Beautiful People! – not ‘students’, ‘clerks’, ‘salesgirls’, ‘executive trainees’ – Christ, don’t give me your occupation-game labels! We are Beautiful People, ascendant from your robot junkyard. – Tom Wolfe

Most people don’t read editorial pages. I think I must have been 40 before I even looked at an editorial page. – Tom Wolfe

And – of course! – the Non-people. The whole freaking world was full of people who were bound to tell you they weren’t qualified to do this or that but they were determined to go ahead and do just that thing anyway. – Tom Wolfe

I don’t think journalists should talk about whom they’re voting for. – Tom Wolfe

God, newspapers have been making up stories forever. This kind of trifling and fooling around is not a function of the New Journalism. – Tom Wolfe

Not long after I published my first book, I quickly found I was terrible at being interviewed. – Tom Wolfe

Radical Chic, after all, is only radical in Style; in its heart it is part of Society and its traditions. – Tom Wolfe

There was a time in the 1930s when magazine writers could actually make a good living. ‘The Saturday Evening Post’ and ‘Collier’s’ both had three stories in each issue. These were usually entertaining, and people really went for them. But then television came along, and now of course, information technology…the new way of killing time. – Tom Wolfe

Vietnam was really an idealistic thing to stop the spread of communism, which, incidentally, it did. It was a pretty costly way to do it, but it achieved its goal. – Tom Wolfe

By the time I received my doctorate in American studies in 1957, I was in the twisted grip of a disease of our times in which the sufferer experiences an overwhelming urge to join the ‘real world.’ So I started working for newspapers. – Tom Wolfe

Even hostile parodies admit from the start that the target has a distinct voice. – Tom Wolfe

Everything was becoming allegorical, understood by the group mind, and especially this:You’re either on the bus…or off the bus. – Tom Wolfe

The attitude is we live and let live. This is actually an amazing change in values in a rather short time and it’s an example of freedom from religion. – Tom Wolfe

Frankly, these days, without a theory to go with it, I can’t see a painting. – Tom Wolfe

People complain about my exclamation points, but I honestly think that’s the way people think. I don’t think people think in essays; it’s one exclamation point to another. – Tom Wolfe

don’t just describe an emotion, arouse it, make them experience it, by manipulating the symbol of the emotion, and sometimes we have to come into awareness through the back door. – Tom Wolfe

it is either make this thing permanent inside of you or forever just climb draggled up into the conning tower every time for one short glimpse of the horizon. – Tom Wolfe

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, old people in America had prayed,Please God, don’t let me look poor.In the year 2000, they prayed,Please God, don’t let me look old.Sexiness was equated with youth, and youth ruled. The most widespread age-related disease was not senility but juvenility. – Tom Wolfe

My father was the editor of an agricultural magazine called ‘The Southern Planter.’ He didn’t think of himself as a writer. He was a scientist, an agronomist, but I thought of him as a writer because I’d seen him working at his desk. I just assumed that I was going to do that, that I was going to be a writer. – Tom Wolfe

No machines will ever truly fully figure the brain out, because the brain’s performance is constantly altered or else constrained by this inanimate, rogue artifact you can’t control, namely, speech. – Tom Wolfe

The whole conviction of my life now rests upon the belief that loneliness, far from being a rare and curious phenomenon, peculiar to myself and to a few other solitary men, is the central and inevitable fact of human existence. – Tom Wolfe

You can be denounced from the heavens, and it only makes people interested. – Tom Wolfe

I’m a great believer in outlines. – Tom Wolfe

I think of evolution as a myth, like the Norse myths, the Greek myths – anybody’s myths. But it was created for a rational age. – Tom Wolfe

It’s fortunate that I am a writer, because that has helped me understand the properties of words. They are what have made life complex. In the battle for status in the animal kingdom, power and aggressiveness have been all-important. But among humans, once they acquired speech, all that changed. – Tom Wolfe

(W)hat I write when I force myself is generally just as good as what I write when I’m feeling inspired. It’s mainly a matter of forcing yourself to write. – Tom Wolfe

I still believe nonfiction is the most important literature to come out of the second half of the 20th century. – Tom Wolfe

America is a wonderful country! I mean it! No honest writer would challenge that statement! The human comedy never runs out of material! it never lets you down! – Tom Wolfe

I wrote a number of pieces in the year 1966 that were so bad that, although I’m a great collector of my own pieces, I have never collected them. – Tom Wolfe

On Wall Street he and a few others – how many? three hundred, four hundred, five hundred? had become precisely that… Masters of the Universe. – Tom Wolfe

The ‘New York Honk,’ as it was called, was the most fashionable accent an American male could have at that time, namely, the spring of 1963. One achieved it by forcing all words out through the nostrils rather than the mouth. It was at once virile… and utterly affected. Nelson Rockefeller had a New York Honk. – Tom Wolfe

A cult is a religion with no political power. – Tom Wolfe

A lie may fool someone else, but it tells you the truth: you’re weak. – Tom Wolfe

If a conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged, a liberal is a conservative who’s been arrested. – Tom Wolfe

Sherman made the terrible discovery that men make about their fathers sooner or later… that the man before him was not an aging father but a boy, a boy much like himself, a boy who grew up and had a child of his own and, as best he could, out of a sense of duty and, perhaps love, adopted a role called Being a Father so that his child would have something mythical and infinitely important: a Protector, who would keep a lid on all the chaotic and catastrophic possibilities of life. ~Tom Wolfe – Tom Wolfe

It is very comforting to believe that leaders who do terrible things are, in fact, mad. That way, all we have to do is make sure we don’t put psychotics in high places, and we’ve got the problem solved. – Tom Wolfe

You’re either on the bus or off the bus. – Tom Wolfe

The surest cure for vanity is loneliness. – Tom Wolfe

Put your good where it will do the most! – Tom Wolfe

[Aldous Huxley] compared the brain to a ‘reducing valve’. In ordinary perception, the senses send an overwhelming flood of information to the brain, which the brain then filters down to a trickle it can manage for the purpose of survival in a highly competitive world. Man has become so rational, so utilitarian, that the trickle becomes most pale and thin. It is efficient, for mere survival, but it screens out the most wondrous part of man’s potential experience without his even knowing it. We’re shut off from our own world. – Tom Wolfe

It’s not just that reporting gives you a bigger slice of life, gives – lends verisimilitude to what you are doing – it’s that it feeds the imagination. – Tom Wolfe

Everybody is going to be what they are, and whatever they are, there’s not going to be anything to apologize about. – Tom Wolfe

I never forget. I never forgive. I can wait. I find it very easy to harbor a grudge. I have scores to settle. – Tom Wolfe

The world was simply and sheerly divided into ‘the aware’, those who had the experience of being vessels of the divine, and a great mass of ‘the unaware’, ‘the unmusical’, ‘the unattuned. – Tom Wolfe

Dear Mother, I meant to write you before this, and I hope you haven’t been worried…. I have met some Beautiful People and… – Tom Wolfe

Sometimes we don’t even realize what we really care about, because we get so distracted by the symbols. – Tom Wolfe

His hair has the long Jesus Christ look. He is wearing the costume clothes. But most of all, he now has a very tolerant and therefore withering attitude toward all those who are still struggling in the old activist political ways…while he, with the help of psychedelic chemicals, is exploring the infinite regions of human consciousness. – Tom Wolfe

What do you mean, blindly? That baby is a very sentient creature… That baby sees the world with a completeness that you and I will never know again. His doors of perception have not yet been closed. He still experiences the moment he lives in. – Tom Wolfe

a perception of the cosmic unity of this higher level. And a feeling of timelessness, the feeling that what we know as time is only the result of a naive faith in causality – the notion that A in the past caused B in the present, which will cause C in the future, when actually A, B, and C are all part of a pattern that can be truly understood only by opening the doors of perception and experiencing it… in this moment… this supreme moment… this Kairos. – Tom Wolfe

The notion that the public accepts or rejects anything in modern art is merely romantic fiction. The game is completed, and the trophies distributed long before the public knows what has happened. – Tom Wolfe

My entire career, in fiction or nonfiction, I have reported and written about people who are not like me. – Tom Wolfe

I went to see the Beatles last month… And I heard 20,000 girls screaming together at the Beatles… and I couldn’t hear what they were screaming, either… But you don’t have to… They’re screaming Me! Me! Me! Me! … I’m Me! … That’s the cry of the ego, and that’s the cry of this rally! … Me! Me! Me! Me! … And that’s why wars get fought… ego… because enough people want to scream Pay attention to Me… Yep, you’re playing their game. – Tom Wolfe

There are some people who have the quality of richness and joy in them and they communicate it to everything they touch. It is first of all a physical quality; then it is a quality of the spirit. – Tom Wolfe

I had always looked down on sociology as this arriviste discipline. It didn’t have the noble history of English and history as a subject. But once I had a little exposure to it, I said, ‘Hey, here’s the key. Here’s the key to understanding life and all its forms.’ – Tom Wolfe

This is the artist, then, life’s hungry man, the glutton of eternity, beauty’s miser, glory’s slave. – Tom Wolfe

My idol is Emile Zola. He was a man of the left, so people expected of him a kind of ‘Les Misérables,’ in which the underdogs are always noble people. But he went out, and found a lot of ambitious, drunk, slothful and mean people out there. Zola simply could not – and was not interested in – telling a lie. – Tom Wolfe

There is no spectacle on earth more appealing than that of a beautiful woman in the act of cooking dinner for someone she loves. – Tom Wolfe

You never realize how much of your background is sewn into the lining of your clothes. – Tom Wolfe

‘Why’ is a question no animal can ask, because both the question and answers require speech. Have you ever seen an animal shrug? – Tom Wolfe

Nerds… the ‘nerd’ has never been precisely defined, thanks to the psychological complexity of the creature. The word has connotations of some level of intelligence. The typical nerd is a male with intelligence but no sense of giving it a manly face. – Tom Wolfe

Once you have speech, you don’t have to wait for natural selection! If you want more strength, you build a stealth bomber; if you don’t like bacteria, you invent penicillin; if you want to communicate faster, you invent the Internet. Once speech evolved, all of human life changed. – Tom Wolfe

I can remember that on the shelves at home, there were these books by Thomas Wolfe. ‘Look Homeward Angel’ and ‘Of Time and the River.’ ‘Of Time and the River’ had just come out when I was aware of his name. My parents had a hard time convincing me that he was no kin whatsoever. My attitude was, ‘Well, what’s he doing on the shelf, then?’ – Tom Wolfe

I used to go through the dictionary looking for unusual but nontechnical words. At one time, I thought the greatest word was ‘jejune’ and I would throw it into every piece because something about it appealed to me. – Tom Wolfe

American government is like a train on a track. You have the people on the left shouting; you have the people on the right. But the train’s on track. They just keep ploughing ahead. – Tom Wolfe

There is no motivation higher than being a good writer. – Tom Wolfe

If most writers are honest with themselves, this is the difference they want to make: before, they were not noticed; now they are. – Tom Wolfe

That’s mostly what the Internet is, just passing the time. But unfortunately, you are dealing with words that can have meaning. – Tom Wolfe

We are now in the Me Decade – seeing the upward roll of the third great religious wave in American history. – Tom Wolfe

I found a great many pieces of punctuation and typography lying around dormant when I came along – and I must say I had a good time using them. – Tom Wolfe

I wrote ‘The Painted Word,’ about modern art, and was denounced as reactionary. In fact, it is just a history, although a rather loaded one. – Tom Wolfe

I have never knowingly, I swear to God, written satire. The word connotes exaggeration of the foibles of mankind. To me, mankind just has foibles. You don’t have to push it! – Tom Wolfe

I used to enjoy using dots where they would be least expected, not at the end of a sentence but in the middle, creating the effect… of a skipped beat. It seemed to me the mind reacted – first! … in dots, dashes, and exclamation points, then rationalized, drew up a brief, with periods. – Tom Wolfe

By the 1950s The Novel had become a nationwide tournament. There was a magical assumption that the end of World War II in 1945 was the dawn of a new golden age of the American Novel, like the Hemingway-Dos Passos-Fitzgerald era after World War I. – Tom Wolfe

To me, novels are a trip of discovery, and you discover things that you don’t know, and you assume that many of your readers don’t know, and you try to bring them to life on the page. – Tom Wolfe

Working on newspapers, you’re writing to a certain length, often very brief pieces; you tend to look for easy forms of humor – women can’t drive, things like that. That’s about the level of a lot of newspaper humor. It becomes a form of laziness. – Tom Wolfe

I hate stories in which a person has an occupation and you never see him working at it, like all those marvelous Cary Grant movies where he’s a surgeon, and you never see him in the operating room. – Tom Wolfe

If I had my choice, I would be writing by typewriter. I worked on newspapers for 10 years. I typed with the touch system, and unfortunately, you can’t keep typewriters going today. You have to take the ribbons back to be re-inked. You have to – it’s a horrible search to try to find missing parts. So I went to the computer. – Tom Wolfe

The modern notion of art is an essentially religious or magical one in which the artist is viewed as a holy beast who in some way, big or small, receives flashes from the godhead, which is known as creativity. – Tom Wolfe

There has been a time on earth when poets had been young and dead and famous – and were men. But now the poet as the tragic child of grandeur and destiny had changed. The child of genius was a woman, now, and the man was gone. – Tom Wolfe

When I went to high school, my most passionate desire was to be a professional baseball player. But something within me told me that was not going to happen. – Tom Wolfe

I have discovered that for me – now, maybe it doesn’t work for everybody – for me, it is much more effective to arrive at any situation as a man from Mars than to try to fit in. – Tom Wolfe

Everyone is taught the essentials of writing for at least 13 years, maybe more if they go to college. Nobody is taught music or tap dancing that way. – Tom Wolfe

‘No Hands’ art goes straight back to Warhol. He was the first to use elves. – Tom Wolfe

The greatest promotion I ever had on a newspaper was when ‘The Washington Post’ suddenly promoted me from city-side general assignment reporter to Latin American correspondent and sent me off to Cuba. Fidel Castro had just come to power. It was a very exciting assignment, but also very serious. – Tom Wolfe

To me, the great joy of writing is discovering. Most writers are told to write about what they know, but I still love the adventure of going out and reporting on things I don’t know about. – Tom Wolfe

I have no idea who coined the term ‘the New Journalism,’ or when it was coined. I have never even liked the term. Any movement, group, party, program, philosophy or theory that goes under a name with ‘new’ in it is just begging for trouble, of course. – Tom Wolfe

I would vote for Bush if for no other reason than to be at the airport waving off all the people who say they are going to London if he wins again. Someone has got to stay behind. – Tom Wolfe

In the 1930s, all the novelists had seemed to be people who came blazing up into stardom from out of total obscurity. That seemed to be the nature of the beast. The biographical notes on the dustjackets of the novels were terrific. – Tom Wolfe

Philip Roth is a fabulous writer, but he pretty much stays within his own life. He’s so good – I mean, practically anything I’ve ever read of his I’ve really enjoyed. He just has tremendous talent. But I think he should have given himself a break and gone deeper into the society. – Tom Wolfe

The newspaper is, in fact, very bad for one’s prose style. That’s why I gravitated towards feature stories where you get a little more leeway in the writing style. – Tom Wolfe

We are always acting on what has just finished happening. It happened at least 1/30th of a second ago. We think we’re in the present, but we aren’t. The present we know is only a movie of the past. – Tom Wolfe

‘Back to Blood’ really took it out of me. While I was writing it, I just never went out anywhere, except to the gym. – Tom Wolfe

At the outset, at least, all three groups had something else to recommend them, as well: They were headquartered 3,000 miles away from the East Side of Manhattan. – Tom Wolfe

Fortunately, the world is full of people with information compulsion who want to tell you their stories. They want to tell you things that you don’t know. They’re some of the greatest allies that any writer has. – Tom Wolfe

I read somewhere that writers, as they get older, become more and more perfectionist. Which may be because they think more highly of themselves and they worry about their reputations. I think there’s some truth to that. – Tom Wolfe

I was sitting in my office when someone called to tell me two light planes had collided with the World Trade Centre. I turned on my television; before long, there was this procession of people of all kinds walking up the street. What I remember most was the silence of that crowd; there was no sound. – Tom Wolfe

It helps to know from a very early age what you want to do. From the time I was five years old, I wanted to be a writer, even though I couldn’t even read. It was mainly because I thought of my father as a writer. – Tom Wolfe

In the U.S., the term ‘general aviation’ means its exact opposite, the way ‘public school’ does in England. An English public school is private and, on top of that, exclusive. Likewise, general-aviation airports in the U.S. are for everyone but the general public. – Tom Wolfe

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