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Thomas Wolfe (1900–1938)

Author of Look Homeward, Angel

143+ Works 8,007 Members 125 Reviews 36 Favorited

About the Author

Thomas Wolfe was born in Asheville, North Carolina on October 3, 1900. He graduated from the University of North Carolina and Harvard University. He taught at New York University from 1924 to 1930. His four long autobiographical novels are Look Homeward, Angel; Of Time and the River; The Web and show more the Rock; and You Can't Go Home Again. He also wrote short stories that were collected in The Hills Beyond and From Death to Morning. He wrote several plays including Welcome to Our City. From an early bout with pneumonia, he suffered from tuberculosis of the lungs, which led to fatal tuberculosis of the brain. He died following brain surgery on September 15, 1938 at age 37. (Bowker Author Biography) show less
Image credit: Photo by Carl Van Vechten, Apr. 14, 1933 (Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Carl Van Vechten Collection, Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-87328)


Works by Thomas Wolfe

Look Homeward, Angel (1929) 3,486 copies
You Can't Go Home Again (1934) 1,716 copies
Of Time and the River (1935) 632 copies
The Web and the Rock (1937) 486 copies
The Hills Beyond (1941) 242 copies
From Death to Morning (1935) — Author — 149 copies
The Lost Boy: A Novella (1937) — Author — 141 copies
The Face of a Nation (1939) 51 copies
The Story of a Novel (1936) 45 copies
The Thomas Wolfe Reader (1962) 38 copies
The Party at Jack's (1995) 31 copies
The Portable Thomas Wolfe (1946) 29 copies
The Letters of Thomas Wolfe (1956) 28 copies
The Good Child's River (1991) 25 copies
Short Stories (1947) 20 copies
The Starwick Episodes (1994) 17 copies
Mannerhouse (1948) 13 copies
Welcome to Our City (1983) 11 copies
Thomas Wolfe's Civil War (2004) 10 copies
No Door (2012) 8 copies
Letters 8 copies
Hermana muerte (2014) 7 copies
Especulación (2013) 7 copies
La mirada del ángel (2022) 5 copies
Tengo algo que deciros (1964) 5 copies
CUENTOS (2020) 5 copies
Notebooks of Thomas Wolfe (1970) 5 copies
The story of a novel (2017) 5 copies
The Medical Students (2000) 4 copies
Return (1976) 3 copies
Stories by Thomas Wolfe (1944) 3 copies
Circus at Dawn (1935) 3 copies
Gewebe und Fels 3 copies
Sämtliche Erzählungen (1967) — Contributor — 3 copies
Der verlorene Knabe Erzählungen — Author — 3 copies
Von Zeit und Strom (2018) 3 copies
La red y la roca (2022) 2 copies
L'Histoire d'un roman (2016) 2 copies
K-19: SALVAGED PIECES (1983) 2 copies
Willkommen in Altamont! / Herrenhaus (1962) — Author — 2 copies
Death the proud brother (1964) 2 copies
Mountains: Two Plays (1970) 2 copies
Chickamauga 1 copy
Tres relatos 1 copy
The Whore 1 copy
Selections (1952) 1 copy
El ángel que nos mira (1901) 1 copy
The Streets of Durham. (1982) 1 copy
Mannerhouse 1 copy

Associated Works

50 Great Short Stories (1952) — Contributor — 1,217 copies
The Crack-Up (1945) — Contributor — 901 copies
The Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart: A Poetry Anthology (1992) — Contributor — 384 copies
Baseball: A Literary Anthology (2002) — Contributor — 330 copies
A Treasury of Short Stories (1947) — Contributor — 287 copies
Writing New York: A Literary Anthology (1998) — Contributor — 274 copies
The Saturday Evening Post Treasury (1954) — Contributor — 134 copies
An Anthology of Famous American Stories (1953) — Contributor — 131 copies
The Literature of the American South: A Norton Anthology (1997) — Contributor — 96 copies
A Treasury of Civil War Stories (1985) — Contributor — 73 copies
Rotten English: A Literary Anthology (2007) — Contributor — 73 copies
Brooklyn Noir 2: The Classics (2005) — Contributor — 70 copies
Bedside Book of Famous American Stories (1936) — Contributor — 66 copies
New York (1980) — Contributor — 59 copies
Reading for Pleasure (1957) — Contributor — 49 copies
Food Tales: A Literary Menu of Mouthwatering Masterpieces (1992) — Contributor — 38 copies
A Quarto of Modern Literature (1935) — Contributor — 38 copies
Fifty Best American Short Stories 1915-1965 (1965) — Contributor — 35 copies
50 Best American Short Stories 1915-1939 (1939) — Contributor — 28 copies
Vogue's First Reader (1942) — Contributor — 27 copies
The Seas of God: Great Stories of the Human Spirit (1944) — Contributor — 25 copies
Tell Me a Story: An Anthology (1957) — Contributor — 23 copies
A Good Man: Fathers and Sons in Poetry and Prose (1993) — Contributor — 20 copies
Confederate Battle Stories (Civil War Series) (1992) — Contributor — 15 copies
A Southern Appalachian Reader (1988) — Contributor — 14 copies
Law in Action: An Anthology of the Law in Literature (1947) — Contributor — 13 copies
Writer to Writer: Readings on the Craft of Writing (1966) — Contributor — 8 copies
Great Tales of City Dwellers (1955) — Contributor — 8 copies
Time to Be Young: Great Stories of the Growing Years (1945) — Contributor — 7 copies
Our lives : American labor stories — Contributor — 6 copies
Tredive mesterfortællinger — Author, some editions — 3 copies
Great railroad stories of the world — Contributor — 2 copies
Strange Barriers (1955) — Contributor — 2 copies
O. Henry Memorial Award Prize Stories of 1935 — Contributor — 2 copies
Enjoying Stories (1987) — Contributor — 2 copies
Carolina Folk-Plays, Second Series (1924) — some editions — 1 copy
The Undying Past — Contributor — 1 copy
Kerouac Quarterly, V. 2, No. 1 — Contributor — 1 copy
O. Henry Memorial Award Prize Stories of 1934 (1934) — Contributor — 1 copy
Modern American short stories (1963) — Contributor — 1 copy


Common Knowledge



This is the story of Eugene Gant, a southerner whose goal eventually becomes going to Harvard. It appears to be somewhat autobiographical as Thomas Wolfe grew up in the South and eventually went to Harvard. How much of Eugene Gant's story is also Thomas Wolfe's story is much less clear. Eugene is the youngest of a very dysfunctional family. His father hates his mother's family and she cannot stand his. The father had been a successful businessman but is erratic in the extreme and very alcoholic. His mother is excessively concerned about expenses wanting every cent to me invested in her passion, real estate. She knows the value of every parcel but is totally blind to the value and the problems of her family members, her spouse and her children. The children act out in rebellion in all directions.

Eugene, being the youngest, is his mother's last chance to get parenting right. He's her darling and can do no wrong, much to the dismay of his older siblings. They got punished for what he now gets away with. He gets support where they got nothing or less than they needed. He turns inward and becomes the scholar they never were. He reads Latin and Greek, reads and writes poetry, thinks about Gods and mythical creatures. They are real to him. They allow him to escape the dysfunction around him. Yet as he grows he sees more and more of what is around him. This is where my problem reading this book began. What was around Eugene was the South of the early twentieth century. As I read many classics I have to remember that was then and this is now and hold off seeing their lives with my eyes. We've moved on. Yet around Eugene is so much that is now repugnant. Wolfe is thoroughly comfortable with the N-word. It and it's variants are used hundreds of times in this book. Most importantly there seems to be no recognition that anything was wrong with this. After a while I found myself shutting down. My empathy for him diminished as he showed no empathy for those around him. Disappointing. I would have loved to see this book in a more positive light.

Back to the story. The mother in her penny-pinching mode has made their home into a boarding house. Many stories surround the less than savory boarders that pass through. Mother seems to totally ignore the fact that many of the boarders are prostitutes. She sees failings in none of then, just her husband and children. Her husband gets progressively ill and is cared for by one of the older girls. The mother always dismisses her husband's illness with there's nothing wrong, or he'll survive, or that's just his way to get attention – never any empathy. This constant theme is heightened when one of Eugene's older brothers gets sick. He was the one who escaped by becoming a sailor and often was never home. As he was dying he refused to even let his mother see him. He wanted no part of her false empathy. His death brought this into stark resolution, even for Eugene.

Eugene escapes by going back to college, becoming a star pupil and preparing to go to Harvard. At the end I was wanted nothing more to do with this dysfunction. It was clear that Wolfe was an impressive writer. The lyricism of his prose reminded me of Thomas Mann, my favorite writer. Wolfe's prose was constantly spinning a situation, wandering almost aimlessly, had many unconnected observations all reminding me of Joyce. Those qualities kept me reading.
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Ed_Schneider | 49 other reviews | Nov 2, 2023 |
This book was a major disappointment. I really looked forward to reading it for a variety of reasons. I was fascinated that the simple phrase "you can't go home again" is often prefaced by "As Thom Wolfe has said". He owned it. I wanted very much to explore the phrase and thoroughly expected this book to answer that need. The phrase is rich with psychological meaning. It talks to both our present and our past, our seeing the past rosier than it ever was and our having needs that nostalgia addresses. But my hopes were dashed. While Wolfe does explore going back home he puts a spin on it that takes us in an entirely different direction. Instead of being the prodigal son who returns to his people he is the writer who has exposed everything about where he came from and more than anything the failings and faults of all the people back there. No wonder no one welcomes his homecoming. He's not the hero, he's a traitor. That was not the exploration of a yearning we all feel. Has he ruined the phrase by immediately associating it was this other issue? Hopefully only those who actually read the book will be sidetracked. A cold shower may not be enough. The phrase " you can't un-ring a bell" comes to mind.

This novel again feels autobiographical. The central character, George Webber, is a southern writer struggling to focus on writing. It also is very much of a time and place. It was written at the height of the depression and with the rise of Nazis and fascists in Europe. Lots of easy targets. The roaring twenties is exposed for its lack of a real foundation. All those beliefs in growth and reward make easy targets for lack of foresight. They didn't see the ground coming out from under them. Wolfe sees them as pure speculators and hucksters, not as builders of a better future. The banker who had been seen as a pillar of the community is now someone who stole other people's money. Not surprising that Wolfe became popular, everyone wanted to put the blame on someone for their predicament. In the beginning of the story George has a wealthy older, married, mistress. He's even invited to a party she's giving with her husband. He reluctantly attends. The party turns out to be a disaster. The performer she's hired brings his own entourage and a fire ends the fiasco. George decides he can't continue with the relationship, he clearly disapproves of her life, her husband and their friends. He decides enough of that, that's all false and he wants to have nothing to do with that. He saw it as interfering with his writing. I was disappointed. That storyline seemed interesting.

George then moves to Brooklyn living a much sparer life style and concentrating on finishing his first book. Not clear that this is what Wolfe did but it would not surprise me. Once his book is published he has some money and moves to Paris, like many writers of that time. He falls under the sway of a major writer who believes that George, based on his first book, is a major writer. George appreciates the attention. He even visits Berlin. He eventually returns to New York living in a apartment with some other Southerners. I found this section of the book less engaging. I did not see the point of it. It's a shame Wolfe dies young and we have so few of his works. He was definitely a talented writer.
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Ed_Schneider | 28 other reviews | Nov 2, 2023 |
Wolfe re-creates his early 20th Century North Carolina childhood from infancy through adolescence in the character of Eugene,, depicting his family members, friends, and neighbors in caricatures without humor, warmth, or affection, in impressionistic, brocaded language in which almost every noun, almost every verb is tangled with modifiers, like burrs on a country dog, and with such an uncontrolled love of similes that frequently he offers the reader a choice of them for a single scene. The book is an inventory of all the places he has seen along with their smells, sounds, and colors; a catalog of all the people he has known, carefully described along with their histories, many of them never mentioned again. It's difficult to read 200,000 words about a person who is too young to have had interesting experiences, too meek and introspective to make observations on human nature, too absorbed in melodramatic fantasies of love and heroism to engage in reality.… (more)
estragon73 | 49 other reviews | Sep 29, 2023 |
After many years away from reading Thomas Wolfe, I am reminded again why he is my favorite writer. He is a poet who writes prose, and this brief tone poem to his youth, his father, and to the vast promise and sorrow of America that infuses everything Wolfe wrote is as musical and profound as anything he ever wrote.
jumblejim | Aug 26, 2023 |



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