An impish Wolfe replayed; The Purple Decades: A Reader, by Tom Wolfe. Introduction by Joe David Bellamy. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux. 396 pp. $17.50.
It's a trip in a Time Machine, thumbing through this rich album of memories from the fractious '60s and sobersided '70s as observed by ''the most accomplished and notorious practitioner of the New Journalism'' (in introducer Bellamy's words). Urban sophisticates and glamour-addicts, astronauts and their wives waiting back home, various bored souls seeking quick nirvanic fixes.
Although Tom Wolfe's surrealistic buoyancy occasionally masks conservative postures (see his funny diatribes against modern art and architecture), and his satirical cartoons are derivative, he emerges as a brilliant reporter, whose prose comes through as the honest and appropriate expression of his impish sensibility.