A Trip Not Traveled

by C. Omaña Villanueva

The NGY Review, 25 Aug. 2018

 This paper analyzes Tom Wolfe’s language in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, a book that defined a generation. The reason for choosing this work was that it is one of the most important books of contemporary nonfiction (CNF), an emerging field of writing in the United States. This essay is also in honor of Tom Wolfe as it was written in the year of his death. Wolfe was an innovator of “The New Journalism,” and the purpose of this essay is to show how his methods at obtaining the content of his stories was unique, and that the language he used was evocative to his own personal experience with the Merry Pranksters. Wolfe, as a writer of nonfiction, was bound to the writing of a truthful narrative. His methods are explained to show how he could merge with his subjects, much like an anthropologist would do when trying to understand a culture. Wolfe would not take notes until later, after the fact. This shows his superb memory for detail and diction. Also, it is found that Wolfe’s language and that of the main character, Ken Kesey, eventually merge as the book progresses. This enables the reader to experience the text in a more active rather than passive way, resulting in a more profound delivery of the book’s interpretation. 

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