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The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  2,654 Ratings  ·  87 Reviews
In his first book (1965) Wolfe introduces us to the sixties, to extravagant new styles of life that had nothing to do with the "elite" culture of the past.
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published November 1st 1987 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 1965)
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This was a fun and interesting read, from a 2014 perspective. (Although if I ever read the word "artherosclerotic" again I think I'll scream.) These essays/articles all came from the early 1960's and they showcase a world I hadn't a clue about.

For instance, the nanny mafia in New York? I wondered, is there still a nanny mafia? (I googled it, yes, apparently there is.) And who is Baby Jane Holzer? Had to do some research and asking around about her. I loved visiting Las Vegas in the early 1960's.
Sep 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Sixties fans
Sorry, all you Hunter S. Thompson fans, but Tom Wolfe revolutionized journalism in the Sixties and didn't need biker colors or mescaline to accomplish the task. His first book (a compilation of articles for Esquire and others) is a brilliant assessment of pop culture (i.e. hot rod shows, fashion designers, Phil Spector, etc.) that captures the times beautifully. I also really like his crazy sketches of street life in New York, complete with hair style portraits. Mad props to Mr. Wolfe!
Mark Taylor
Nov 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Tom Wolfe burst onto the literary scene in 1965 with the publication of his first book, The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby, a collection of articles that he had written for Esquire and New York magazine, the Sunday supplement of the New York Herald Tribune. Surprisingly for a book of collected non-fiction, it sold extremely well, and helped shine a light on the burgeoning genre soon to be called “New Journalism.” Wolfe and other “New Journalists” of the 1960’s like Gay Talese were ...more
Jan 22, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays, pop-culture, beat
This was my first exposure to Wolfe, and though I think I can see the appeal of his writing, I have to admit that this book didn't really speak to me the way I hoped it would. The writing has a certain "beat" flair, though I'm not certain that Wolfe would appreciate being thrown in with beat writers.

I finished this book a couple of months ago, and now I am having difficulty remembering the topics Wolfe covered, indicating both that I have a weak memory but also that the book didn't make too big
Albert Gomperts
Feb 13, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I remember reading this book in 1968 and being electrified by the wonderful descriptive passages that seemed to use a new language of buzz.
Jul 26, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Tom Wolfe offers a very unique look at the different cultural groups of America, from fringe sport enthusiasts and mega-rockers, to status-hungry socialites and other affluent New Yorkers who do little more than complain about everything and jockey for social position. While the first half of the book, dealing with pop culture and fringe society, is vastly more entertaining than the second half, dealing with the debutantes and captain-of-industry dandies; the entire book is permeated with Wolfe' ...more
Nov 28, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've always admired Tom Wolfe the journalist - it's not just that his observations are astute, as many many literary critics have pointed out - but that he balances humor and sadness in a unique way. What is startling about this collection of essays (written in the early 1960's) is how true it still is today, forty years later. Vegas and the senior citizen population; the nanny mafia in the Upper East Side; the It Girl of the year; 22 year-old millionaires. It is all fresh and true. His observat ...more
Peter Mcloughlin
This collection of essays by Tom Wolfe dating from the sixties gives and incite into that go go decade at the height of post war prosperity. Wolfe's main idea was that culture was no longer a property of the affluent as had been for ages. With so much wealth entering quarters that rarely consumed media the pop culture of the time had different ideas than the guardians of culture. Some of the incites of the time seem dated today when we are swirling in the media culture that exploded in the 60s ...more
Jun 24, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ugh, I don't like rating short story collections when the quality varies so wildly. Quite a few of these didn't hold my interest at all after a couple of pages, but "The Marvelous Mouth" (a story on Cassius Clay) is one of the best pieces of writing I've ever seen. I also recommend "The Secret Vice" (men's fashion) and the trio of excellent reports on car culture:

"Clean Fun at Riverhead" (demolition derby)
"The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby" (customizing)
"The Last American Hero" (
David Koblos
Feb 05, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: culture
The reason I enyojed this book was mostly because of Tom Wolfe's insightful description of the early 60's, a time I am only rudimentarily familiar with from film and TV, but never got to see for myself. Certain topics, such as custom cars or the work of New York City doormen, I could relate to a bit, or at least picture in my mind. Others, such as celebrities of various kinds, were utterly unfamiliar to me, so I did not get such a kick out of them. Regardless, Wolfe's writing style is as enjoyab ...more
Sep 05, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, journalism
This collection of essays read all together is almost overwhelming; Wolfe captures the spirit of an age perfectly...or so I think, having not been there the first time around. Amazing to remember that some of the things we take for granted--like in the first essay, the Vegas Strip--were new and exciting just a few decades ago.

Wolfe has a few pet vocabulary words that become quickly overused, but that's my only quibble with this fantastic collection.
Apr 17, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
How much of this fades into cultural referential obscurity and how much remains as a period piece of Deep Truths About the American Condition will continue to clarify with time I suspect. The name dropping density shies dangerously close to the thread count of the emperor's new clothes, but the bit about functional suit sleeve buttons is unequivocally for the ages.
George Huxley
Wolfe has some interesting things to say. His style is almost a proto-gonzo journalism. It's similar to Hunter Thompson's style but without any of Thompson's bite, or grit. Wolfe presents a clean and descriptive asthetic, but he seems almost obsessed with the bourgeois culturati of the early 60's and late 50's which just made some of the prose excruciatingly bland. Some of the prose pieces were fantastic, like; The Fifth Beatle, The last American Hero, and his piece on Phil Spector, but a good b ...more
Joshua Nuckols
May 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Incredible. I like this Wolfe guy's 'new journalism' thing.
Sergio Calderón
Tom Wolfe is funnier when you are not a native english speaker. There is no way to translate Wolfe correctly, books of his own must be read in its original version. Great experience.
Oct 28, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Muzak pervades Las Vegas from the time you walk into the airport upon landing to the last time you leave the casinos. It is piped out to the swimming pool. It is in the drugstores. It is as if there were a communal fear that someone, somewhere in Las Vegas, was going to be left with a totally vacant minute on his hands." (7)

"At thirteen, this kid was being fanatically cool. They all were. They were all wonderful slaves to form. They created their own style of life, and they are much more author
Jun 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone that breathes
Shelves: thebest, shortstories
Kandy-Kolored Tangerine Flake Streamline Baby started as a letter to Wolfe’s editor (of the Esquire, no less) while he had writer’s block. To be fair, letter is inaccurate; what he sent was a collection of his field notes about the Kustom Kulture car movement and his interactions with Ed Roth and George Barris, both gods in their field, respectively. His editor published it verbatim.

The book isn’t just about kustom kars though. The 22 essays contained within this book don’t really relate to each
Oct 19, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A könyv címe hosszú évek óta bűvöl, alig vártam, hogy elolvashassam. Erre az elején egyre jobban körvonalazódó kétségbeesés kerített hatalmába, a harmadánál már az imádkozással ekvivalens dolgokra vetemedtem, könyörögtem Tom Wolfe-nak, hogy végre jöjjön már rá, miképpen is ír Tom Wolfe, mert ez rettenetes, elkalandozó, zavaros, önmagára csavarodó. Ahogy kedves molyismerősöm kérdésére válaszolva mondtam: pontosan úgy viselkedett, mint a nagyapám (ezekamaifiatalok stb.), az életkora pedig súlyosbí ...more
Tom Schulte
Isn't Wolfe's thing that he writes a book on American society for every decade, or something? Well, if so, this seems to be the late 50s to mid-60s. Phil Spector is at this peak and The Rolling Stones make a quick, ghost-like cameo. A proto-hippied crash pad pot den is another foreshadow of what the rest of the decade has in store. Celebrated is Ed Roth and teen car culture customizations, the birth of stock car racing and the demolition derby. It's this car stuff and the colors and "boomerang" ...more
Thomas Fenske
Sep 11, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Curiously, I picked up a copy of this book right before Christmas 2009. My wife gave me a copy of Boom! by Tom Brokaw for Christmas. I decided to read Tom Wolfe first. So many people now think of the sixties in terms of the late sixties counter-culture. This books paints the underlayer of what was going on before all that hippie/stop-the-war/change-the-world/woodstock stuff even started. Under that sort of methodology I guess you'd call this the pre-sixties.
The revolution was already happening
Nov 17, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It took me awhile to plow through this one. Maybe I've read too much of him now, but this is pretty low-quality Wolfe. His characteristic style is there, but it's raw and unpolished. There were only a couple of chapters that contained any real insight, delivering the kind of aha! moment that I have enjoyed in some of his later work. This happens in "The Last American Hero" when he tries to connect the dominance of Southern drivers in stock car racing to the fast-driving Scot-Irish bootleggers te ...more
Aug 10, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Maybe it's just that journalism doesn't age well, but it's just hard for me to care about 1960s Manhattan socialite gossip. From a stylistic point it's often very good, but everybody writes like Tom Wolfe nowadays, which really strips away most of the novelty. Also, the repetitiveness of his word usage is a little jarring if you read a couple stories that originally appeared months apart in different magazines in a single evening. If you're a huge Tom Wolfe fan and want to see where things like ...more
Feb 03, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pieces of journalistic writings that capture the era of 60s society in America, with titles that could have been song titles from the Beatles. This book has interesting snippets from famous people; Andy Warhol, Cassius Clay, Phil Spector. Interesting places; a women's penitentiary, the casinos and arcades of Las Vegas, The Museum of Modern art. Interesting events, the customised cars and drag racing descriptions were particularly enjoyable from an age and attitude no longer possible to repeat, v ...more
Jun 05, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
At first I loved this book, it was written in the 60's with Tom Wolfe explicating his theory on why American culture was going to the dogs, or describing the young rich divorcees in New York City, or the birth of NASCAR, and hot rods. They were all articles that he wrote for Esquire, I think, and the first bunch were great. As I read on, however, they got a tad boring, and very New York focused. Me, I'm a western girl. Anyway, I'm glad I read it, just because it has a super cool title! And Tom W ...more
Aug 12, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This books was entertaining, but incredibly dated. It is a collection of Wolfe's essays about topics such as NY socialites, custom cars, Nascar, Las Vegas, shock DJs, and other rich annoying NYC people. It was sort of difficult for me to get through even though the book was relatively short and the chapters (each a different essay) were rarely longer than 10-20 pages. If you are a fan of Wolfe's work then I would say this is something to read, but if not, there are much better books I could reco ...more
Aug 26, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Make that 2 1/2 stars. I suppose this books provides a weird sort of insight to the way things were in the late '50s and early 60's. It is kinda creepily dated. The strangest essay to me was the one on Phil Spector, "The Teen Tycoon". There was certaily foreshadowing of the turn of events invovling him in recent times. Can't say that I would reccomend the book, other than for a freak show trip down memory lane. The prose is decent enough.
Nov 07, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This author is such an astute chronicler of the era.Many of the people and events he talks about came back to mind vividly ,especially the chapter about Junior Johnson and the whole southern car racing sport.I lived in South the during that time and went to many a stock car race on a Saturday night with heat and the noise and the mosquitoes and all. Reading the story was like going home after all these years.Thanks Mr. Wolfe : )
Darran Mclaughlin
A great collection that started the 'New Journalism' phenomenon, which eventually included Joan Didion, Truman Capote, Norman Mailer, Hunter S. Thompson and Lester Bangs. If you liked the Electric Kool Aid Acid Test i'm sure you would like this. Wolfe documents emerging sociological and pop-cultural trends in Sixties America. I wonder which journalists of today will still be read with pleasure in forty or fifty years?
David Ward
The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby by Tom Wolfe (Pocket Books 1976)(306.0973). Originally published in 1965, this is Tom Wolfe's first book. It was a collection of magazine articles, and the book collectively introduced readers to Tom Wolfe's version of the 1960's. I'm happy that Wolfe continued to hone his craft, for this volume did not speak to me at all, and I am a big Tom Wolfe fan. My rating: 6/10, finished 1977.
Adam Sidney
Aug 12, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Insight on American culture from the master. I think the most interesting topic was how in the '50s, the middle classes had enough money to create their own mass market aesthetics, whereas in the past, public aesthetics had been controlled by the aristocracy. The result of this was Las Vegas. The taste-making of French nannies in New York city was highly entertaining as well, and seemingly a prologue to his later Bonfire of the Vanities...
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Wolfe was educated at Washington and Lee Universities and also at Yale, where he received a PhD in American studies.

Tom Wolfe spent his early days as a Washington Post beat reporter, where his free-association, onomatopoetic style would later become the trademark of New Journalism. In books such as The Electric Koolaid Acid Test, The Right Stuff, and The Bonfire of the Vanities, Wolfe delves into
More about Tom Wolfe...