79+ 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

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

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

A cult is a religion with no political power. 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

One belongs to New York instantly, one belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years. 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

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

Nonfiction is never going to die. 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

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

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

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

My idol is Emile Zola. He was a man of the left, so people expected of him a kind of Les Miserables, 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

You’re either on the bus or off the bus. 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

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

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

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

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

The reason a writer writes a book is to forget a book and the reason a reader reads one is to remember it. 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

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

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

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

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

It’s like a boulder rolling down a hill you can watch it and talk about it and scream and say Shit! but you can’t stop it. It’s just a question of where it’s going to go. 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

Your self is other people, all the people you’re tied to, and it’s only a thread. Tom Wolfe

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

Everything in everybody’s life is significant. And everybody is alert, watching for the meanings. 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

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

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

The dark night of fascism is always descending in the United States and yet lands only in Europe. 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

We are all of us doomed to spend our lives watching a movie of our lives we are always acting on what has just finished happening. 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

He could see the island of Manhattan off to the left. The towers were jammed together so tightly, he could feel the mass and stupendous weight.Just think of the millions, from all over the globe, who yearned to be on that island, in those towers, in those narrow streets! There it was, the Rome, the Paris, the London of the twentieth century, the city of ambition, the dense magnetic rock, the irresistible destination of all those who insist on being where things are happening-and he was among the victors! Tom Wolfe

Love is the ultimate expression of the will to live. 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

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

A liberal is a conservative who has been arrested. 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

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

Like more than one Englishman in New York, he looked upon Americans as hopeless children whom Providence had perversely provided with this great swollen fat fowl of a continent. Any way one chose to relieve them of their riches, short of violence, was sporting, if not morally justifiable, since they would only squander it in some tasteless and useless fashion, in any event. Tom Wolfe

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

They’re just beginning to open the doors in their minds. But once you’ve been through that door, you can’t just keep going through it over and over again. Tom Wolfe

The Yanks always wore neckties that leapt out in front of their shirts, as if to announce the awkwardness to follow. 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

An intellectual is a person knowledgeable in one field who speaks out only in others. Tom Wolfe

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

They became desperate for an antidote, such as coziness color. They tried to bury the obligatory white sofas under Thai silk throw pillows of every rebellious, iridescent shade of Magenta, pink, and tropical green imaginable. But the architect returned, as he always does, like the conscience of a Calvinist, and he lectured them and hectored them and chucked the shimmering little sweet things out. Tom Wolfe

I’m a great believer in outlines. Tom Wolfe

Loneliness wasn’t just a state of mind, was it? It was tactile. She could feel it. It was a sixth sense, not in some fanciful play of words, but physically. It hurt it hurt like phagocytes devouring the white matter of her brain. It was merely that she had no friends. She didn’t even have a sanctuary in which she could simply be alone. 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

Beautiful people blossomed forth from out of the polyglot, people who really had a lot to them, only it had been smothered by all the eternal social games that had been set up. Suddenly they found each other. 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

In this little room full of people he was suffering the pangs of men whose egos lose their virginity as happens when they overhear for the first time a beautiful woman’s undiluted, full-strength opinion of their masculine selves. 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

Everything in everybody’s life is significant. And everybody is alert, watching for the meanings. And the vibrations. 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

How very American it was to assume that these unsmiling Chinese would be pleased if one showed a preference for their native implements. How very American it was to feel somehow guilty unless one struggled over rice noodles and lumps of meat with things that looked like enlarged knitting needles. 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

The sad truth was that the United States had not been reduced to a smoking rubble by the first World War. 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

Can’t nobody make us do a thang once we git hard against it. And if anybody don’t like that, you don’t have to explain a thang to’m. All you got to say is, I’m Charlotte Simmons, and I don’t hold with thangs like at. And they’ll respect you for that. 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

I make out a schoolbus glowing orange, green, magenta, lavender, chlorine blue, every fluorescent pastel imaginable in thousands of designs, both large and small, like a cross between Fernand Liger and Dr. Strange, roaring together and vibrating off each other as if somebody had given Hieronymous Bosch fifty buckets of day glo paint and a 1939 International Harvester schoolbus and told him to go to it. 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

We live in an age in which ideas, important ideas, are worn like articles of fashion  and for precisely the same reason articles of fashion are worn, which is to make the wearer look better and to feel à la mode. Tom Wolfe

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

The only thing that had truly stuck in Sherman’s mind about Christopher Marlowe, after nine years at Buckley, four years at St. Paul’s, and four years at Yale, was that you were, in fact, supposed to know who Christopher Marlowe was. 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