Taken at face value, Norman Mailer’s Armies of the Night and Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test may seem very similar. They are both centered on a major author of the 1960s and his experiencing of historical events of the time, while set in the style of New Journalism. When examined closer, though, it becomes apparent that these novels represent two very different sides of New Journalism – Armies of the Night an autobiography with personal and political motivations, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test a sociological piece which tries to capture the essence of its subjects rather than the absolute facts. By looking at the form and style which the novels were written in and the motives behind Mailer’s Armies of the Night and Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test it is revealed how these novels represent the two major directions which New Journalism can take.
Hollowell defines the major differences between traditional reporting and New Journalism as “(1) The reporter’s relationship to the people and events he describes reflects new attitudes and values; and (2) the form and style of the news story is radically transformed through the use of fictional devices borrowed from short stories and novels” (22). These two differences from standard journalism are approached in very different ways by Mailer and Wolfe in their respective novels. The reporter’s relationship to the people and events he describes will be covered later in this paper under Mailer and Wolfe’s respective motivations for writing their novels. Armies of the Night and The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test each represent a different side of the transformation of the form and style necessary in New Journalism. Mailer’s novel does this through the use of the first-hand au...
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... chose solid facts, Wolfe intangible fundamental nature, but both were able to express an intimate knowledge of their subjects.
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