His novels rested on a journalist’s reporting and his journalism had fiction’s flair, perhaps because he did not simply write words the way we do when we’re just communicating information. Wolfe used language — every facet of it on which he could lay his hands. Funky punctuation? All of those literary devices we were supposed to memorize in English class like alliteration or onomatopoeia? Multiple voices in narration and dialogue? All of those and more. If Winston Churchill was supposed to have mobilized the English language and sent it into battle, Wolfe mobilized it and sent it out to help people understand an increasingly weird and troubling world. It may sound like a much lower goal, but all Churchill had to do was defeat the Nazis. Wolfe had to explain why people paid money for a Jackson Pollock painting.
A difficult task indeed.