The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby

The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby

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The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby (ISBN 0-553-38058-3) is the title of Tom Wolfe
Tom Wolfe
Thomas Kennerly "Tom" Wolfe, Jr. is a best-selling American author and journalist. He is one of the founders of the New Journalism movement of the 1960s and 1970s.-Early life and education:...

's first collected book of essay
An essay is a piece of writing which is often written from an author's personal point of view. Essays can consist of a number of elements, including: literary criticism, political manifestos, learned arguments, observations of daily life, recollections, and reflections of the author. The definition...

s, published in 1965. The book is named for one of the stories in the collection that was originally published in Esquire magazine
Esquire (magazine)
Esquire is a men's magazine, published in the U.S. by the Hearst Corporation. Founded in 1932, it flourished during the Great Depression under the guidance of founder and editor Arnold Gingrich.-History:...

in 1963 under the title "There Goes (Varoom! Varoom!) That Kandy-Kolored (Thphhhhhh!) Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby (Rahghhh!) Around the Bend (Brummmmmmmmmmmmmmm)…" Wolfe's essay for Esquire and this, his first book, are frequently heralded as early examples of New Journalism
New Journalism
New Journalism was a style of 1960s and 1970s news writing and journalism which used literary techniques deemed unconventional at the time. The term was codified with its current meaning by Tom Wolfe in a 1973 collection of journalism articles he published as The New Journalism, which included...



In the introduction to the book, Wolfe says that when writing the titular essay for Esquire in 1963, a look at the world of custom car
Custom car
A custom car is a passenger vehicle that has been modified in either of the following two ways. First, a custom car may be altered to improve its performance, often by altering or replacing the engine and transmission. Second, a custom car may be a personal "styling" statement, making the car look...

s, he suffered from a severe case of writer's block. As his deadline approached, Wolfe compiled his notes, without much concern for the standard conventions of writing, and submitted them to his editor Byron Dobell. Dobell is said to have simply removed the salutation "Dear Byron" and run Wolfe's notes as the article.

Wolfe's account of the custom car culture centers on Ed Roth
Ed Roth
"Big Daddy" Ed Roth was an artist, cartoonist, custom car painter, and pinstriper who created the hot-rod icon Rat Fink and other extreme characters. As a custom car builder, Roth was a key figure in Southern California's Kustom Kulture and hot-rod movement of the late 50's and 1960's...

, one of the fathers of the Kustom Kulture
Kustom Kulture
"Kustom Kulture" is an American neologism used to describe the artworks, vehicles, hairstyles, and fashions of those who drove and built custom cars and motorcycles in the United States of America from the 1950s through today....

 movement and George Barris
George Barris (auto customizer)
George Barris is a designer of custom cars.-Early history:George and his brother Sam were born in Chicago in the 1920s. After the deaths of their parents, they moved to Roseville, California as children to live with relatives. Both were good students, interested in drama, music, and design...

, who had a completely different philosophy of customizing cars (Barris' pure art approach, as compared to Roth's cars that were still designed for drivers), but called himself the "King of the Kustomizers."

The 22 essays in the book share no particular unifying theme other than Wolfe's experimental techniques in non-fiction writing. Subjects that crop up in this work, and continue throughout Wolfe's career, include his interests in status, culture, form and style.

Other major essays in the collection include, "Las Vegas (What?) Las Vegas (Can't hear you! Too noisy) Las Vegas!!!!", an early look at how outrageous Las Vegas
Las Vegas Strip
The Las Vegas Strip is an approximately stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard in Clark County, Nevada; adjacent to, but outside the city limits of Las Vegas proper. The Strip lies within the unincorporated townships of Paradise and Winchester...

 was becoming, before the city was as well-known as it is today; or "The Fifth Beatle" and "The First Tycoon of Teen" which profiled pop-music figures Murray the K
Murray the K
Murray Kaufman , professionally known as Murray the K, was an influential rock and roll impresario and disc jockey of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s...

 and Phil Spector
Phil Spector
Phillip Harvey "Phil" Spector is an American record producer and songwriter, later known for his conviction in the murder of actress Lana Clarkson....


The essay that many critics have considered the strongest is "The Last American Hero," a profile of Junior Johnson
Junior Johnson
Robert Glenn Johnson, Jr. , better known as Junior Johnson, is a retired moonshiner in the rural South who became one of the early superstars of NASCAR in the 1950s and 1960s. He won 50 NASCAR races in his career before retiring in 1966...

, an early star of the stock car racing
Stock car racing
Stock car racing is a form of automobile racing found mainly in the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Great Britain, Brazil and Argentina. Traditionally, races are run on oval tracks measuring approximately in length...

 world and NASCAR
The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing is a family-owned and -operated business venture that sanctions and governs multiple auto racing sports events. It was founded by Bill France Sr. in 1947–48. As of 2009, the CEO for the company is Brian France, grandson of the late Bill France Sr...

. In looking at a single day at the races, Wolfe also examines the rise of the race day culture, how it is a stark contrast to the Grand Prix motor racing
Grand Prix motor racing
Grand Prix motor racing has its roots in organised automobile racing that began in France as far back as 1894. It quickly evolved from a simple road race from one town to the next, to endurance tests for car and driver...

 popular in Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

. The Last American Hero
The Last American Hero
The Last American Hero is a 1973 sports drama film based on the true story of American NASCAR driver Junior Johnson...

was made into a film in 1973, starring Jeff Bridges
Jeff Bridges
Jeffrey Leon "Jeff" Bridges is an American actor and musician. He won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role as Otis "Bad" Blake in the 2009 film Crazy Heart....

 as the Johnson character.

Writing style

As the title of the book indicates, Wolfe liberally uses colorful language. In addition, he makes frequent use of onomatopoeia, and uses all manner of type: capitalization, italics, multiple exclamation points, dashes, etc. Another characteristic of Wolfe's writing is switching from highly technical or scientific explanations to very colloquial turns of phrase, often within a single sentence. And, just as Wolfe uses medical jargon when describing the body, he uses commercial language when describing products and slang and vulgarity when chronicling sub-cultures.

Most of these techniques remain hallmarks of Wolfe's writing style throughout his career, including in his publications following The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby: The Pump House Gang
The Pump House Gang
The Pump House Gang is a 1968 collection of essays and journalism by Tom Wolfe. The stories in the book explored various aspects of the counterculture of the 1960s...

, another collection of essays, and The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test
The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test
The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test is a work of literary journalism by Tom Wolfe, published in 1968. Using techniques from the genre of hysterical realism and pioneering new journalism, the "nonfiction novel" tells the story of Ken Kesey and his band of Merry Pranksters...

, Wolfe's chronicle of Ken Kesey
Ken Kesey
Kenneth Elton "Ken" Kesey was an American author, best known for his novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest , and as a counter-cultural figure who considered himself a link between the Beat Generation of the 1950s and the hippies of the 1960s. "I was too young to be a beatnik, and too old to be a...

 and the Merry Pranksters
Merry Pranksters
The Merry Pranksters were a group of people who formed around American author Ken Kesey in 1964 and sometimes lived communally at his homes in California and Oregon...



When first published, The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby directed booksellers to stock the book in the sociology
Sociology is the study of society. It is a social science—a term with which it is sometimes synonymous—which uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about human social activity...

 section of book stores. Many versions of the book are headed by an incomplete quotation from Kurt Vonnegut
Kurt Vonnegut
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. was a 20th century American writer. His works such as Cat's Cradle , Slaughterhouse-Five and Breakfast of Champions blend satire, gallows humor and science fiction. He was known for his humanist beliefs and was honorary president of the American Humanist Association.-Early...

: "Verdict: Excellent book by a genius." Vonnegut's full quotation was "Verdict: Excellent book by a genius who will do anything to get attention." In the same review Kurt Vonnegut
Kurt Vonnegut
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. was a 20th century American writer. His works such as Cat's Cradle , Slaughterhouse-Five and Breakfast of Champions blend satire, gallows humor and science fiction. He was known for his humanist beliefs and was honorary president of the American Humanist Association.-Early...

 wrote: "Interestingly: the most tender piece in this collection depends upon a poem by Kipling for depth, and has Huntington Hartford
Huntington Hartford
George Huntington Hartford II was an American businessman, philanthropist, filmmaker, and art collector. The heir to the A&P supermarket fortune, he owned Paradise Island in the Bahamas, and had numerous other business and real estate interests over his lifetime including the Oil Shale Corporation...

for its hero."

External links