Tom Wolfe, Patron Saint of creative non-fiction

Indeed, of literary journalism, too. An interviewer, Steve Winn, asked Tom Wolfe what did he find different about writing fiction vs. non-fiction, as Tom Wolfe, who began his career as a journalist, is a master of both. At first Wolfe said, there was little difference for him as a writer. Then he added that as a writer of non-fiction, “you can’t pull punches,” meaning you have to be brutally honest. Wolfe says that Alan Shepherd (about whom Wolfe wrote in “The Right Stuff”) “never forgave me.” You could hear in Wolfe’s voice the wistfulness, sadness, and yet, the “I had to do it” honesty of being a journalist who “pulls no punches.”
In a novel, said Wolfe, the writer has “more moral liberty” than in a non-fiction work. But it all ends up the same, he said, “fatal to pull punches.” Wolfe researches his fiction as rigorously as he does his non-fiction work. He prides himself on his objectivity and has this little ironic anecdote to tell about Ken Kesey who was at the center of Wolfe’s “The Electic Kool-Aid Test.” Kesey said nothing to reporters for five years about what Wolfe wrote of him. Then to one interviewer, Kesey said, “It’s the only time he [Wolfe} was wrong—he was too kind.”