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Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe

Look Homeward, Angel (1929)

by Thomas Wolfe

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Showing 1-5 of 31 (next | show all)
Six-word review: We are made of lost things.

Extended review:

It's easy to see why this opus won passionate admiration and a place among the most influential novels of the early twentieth century. It's also easy to see why admiring imitators would have done better to choose some other sort of sincere flattery. Like any other distinctive stylist--Van Gogh comes to mind--only Wolfe is Wolfe, and it's best that others not try to be him.

I feel remiss in having failed to read this novel for more than half a century beyond the time when it was first recommended to me. If I had come to it sooner, I might have recognized traces of its unique character in other readings that I can only now reflect on in retrospect. I might also have had enough time by now to come to a full recognition of what the author did in these many pages.

On the one hand, there are beautiful, moving, lyrical passages, such as his paean to the lost young love (page 372), and insights of notable psychological reach: "Unknowingly, he had begun to build up in himself a vast mythology for which he cared all the more deeply because he realized its untruth. Brokenly, obscurely, he was beginning to feel that it was not truth that men live for--the creative men--but for falsehood." (page 183)

And, as if to counterbalance numerous prolix outflowings of overwrought prose, there is on occasion marvelous economy of phrase: "elegant young ensigns out of college, with something blonde and fluffy at their sides" (page 418). And: "As that spring ripened he felt entirely, for the first time, the full delight of loneliness." Some of those, however, are cloyingly sugar-coated, as with all the instances of "lilac darkness" and the abundance of pearl and nacreous light.

On the other hand, there are numerous instances of questionable use of showoff words such as "phthisic" and "inchoate" (nine of the latter, including the absurd "a wild inchoate scream," page 227). When Wolfe springs words such as "gabular" and "ptotic" and "adyts" into the text, I seldom feel, as I do, for instance, with Oscar Wilde, that they belong to his peculiarly erudite vocabulary and flow naturally from his thought; but rather that he has gone to some little trouble to acquire them and that they are there more to impress than to honor precision.

Also noted: frequent suffocating passages swamped in bobbing, floating adverbs: these, for instance, gathered from two almost randomly chosen facing pages (135 and 136): stiffly, desperately, richly, moistly, sparsely, slightly, fiercely, beautifully, brightly, leafily, softly, musically, lazily, swinishly, cleanly, cynically (twice), belligerently, silently, contemptuously, toughly, thinly, pugnaciously, quietly.

Nonetheless, the novel drew me on; I didn't choose to abandon it. I found depths and revelations in this protracted coming-of-age tale, with its permeating theme of loss, that rewarded my attention. I also noticed that it made me write a little oddly for a while afterward, in much the same way that I start to talk a little funny after I've been bingeing on BBC costume dramas. My note immediately upon finishing it says this: "Style is at once lyrical and juvenile, erudite and ostentatious. Characters never seem to be, but constantly becoming. Does not draw conclusions or look for a simple answer anywhere. At times seems breathless and at times breathes wordlessly." ( )
  Meredy | Feb 25, 2017 |
I read this a long time ago. It had so many passages that just begged to be read aloud. And, for what it's worth, I even loved the music of the curses - Damn, damn, triple damn, hell.

I'm almost afraid to reread it - I might not like it as much after so many years. ( )
  CarolJMO | Dec 12, 2016 |
The description of Eugene Gant's letter to Laura James holds true for the book as well; "...a proud and boastful letter salted with scatterings of Greek, Latin, and English verse...but for a moment at the end, his fiercely beating heart stormed through...".

Look Homeward, Angel chronicles Eugene's life from birth to his leaving a home where he never felt at home, away from a family where all were strangers to each other. Born to a father who found himself, "a stranger in a strange land among people who would always be alien to him", Eugene understood that "men were forever strangers to one another..". Eugene's private internal world of Shakespeare, Shelley, and Milton, set in the lost cities of the antiquities, contrasts sharply with the external world he shared with the mountain grills (yokels?) of rustic Altamont, Catawba (N.C.?).

The paradox of being alone while surrounded by family and community is a recurring theme throughout the book and appears again near the end in the poignant advice Eugene's mother gives him as he is leaving for Harvard; "When you're a stranger in a strange land it's mighty good sometimes to have someone you know." ( )
  wandaly | Jun 30, 2016 |
I know that this is a classic, but it just didn't do it for me. There were spots of brilliance, but there were pages of rambling that I just couldn't stay focused on. It is summer and I was on a time schedule because it was for book club so maybe that affected my focus. ( )
  carolfoisset | Jun 29, 2016 |
Just the best. I still think USA is the great American novel, but this comes damned close. Gorgeous haunting writing you can submerge yourself in. ( )
  ChrisNewton | Mar 18, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 31 (next | show all)
"Kan De finne om ikkje meir enn ei bok til som kjem på høgd med den av Thomas Wolfe, da har De verkelig gjort ein gjerning." Olav Duun

Da Eliza Gant hadde født yngstebarnet, Eugene, "hadde hun stirret dypt ned i de mørke øynene og sett noe som hun visste skulle gløde der inne bestandig, en dyp utilgjengelig og uoppløselig ensomhet, hun visste det var en fremmed som hadde fått liv i det mørke fanget hennes, en gjenganger i sitt eget sinn, ensom når han var alene og ensom når han var midt i verden. Fortapt."

Utkom første gang på norsk i 1933.

» Add other authors (24 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Thomas Wolfeprimary authorall editionscalculated
Maxwell E. PerkinsIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Modick, KlausAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wehrli, IrmaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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... a stone, a leaf, an unfound door; of a stone, a leaf, a door. And of all the forgotten faces. Naked and alone we came into exile. In her dark womb we did not know our mother's face; from the prison of her flesh have we come into the unspeakable and incommunicable prison of this earth. Which of us has known his brother? Which of us has looked into his father's heart? Which of us has not remained forever prison-pent? Which of us is not forever a stranger and alone? O waste of loss, in the hot mazes, lost, among bright stars on this most weary unbright cinder, lost! Remembering speechlessly we seek the great forgotten language, the lost lane-end into heaven, a stone, a leaf, an unfound door. Where? When? O lost, and by the wind grieved, ghost, come back again.
To A.B.

"Then, as all my soules bee,
Emparadis'd in you, (in whom alone
I understand, and grow and see,)
The rafters of my body, bone
Being still with you, the Muscle, Sinew, and Veine,
Which tile this house, will come againe."
First words
A destiny that leads the English to the Dutch is strange enough; but one that leads from Epsom into Pennsylvania, and thence into the hills that shut in Altamont over the proud coral cry of the cock, and the soft stone smile of an angel, is touched by that dark miracle of chance which makes new magic in a dusty world.
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The Amazon cover with Peggy Darty as author does not belong with this novel; it goes with the novel she wrote that has the same title.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0743297318, Paperback)

The stunning, classic coming-of-age novel written by one of America's foremost Southern writers

A legendary author on par with William Faulkner and Flannery O'Connor, Thomas Wolfe published Look Homeward, Angel, his first novel, about a young man's burning desire to leave his small town and tumultuous family in search of a better life, in 1929. It gave the world proof of his genius and launched a powerful legacy.

The novel follows the trajectory of Eugene Gant, a brilliant and restless young man whose wanderlust and passion shape his adolescent years in rural North Carolina. Wolfe said that Look Homeward, Angel is "a book made out of my life," and his largely autobiographical story about the quest for a greater intellectual life has resonated with and influenced generations of readers, including some of today's most important novelists. Rich with lyrical prose and vivid characterizations, this twentieth-century American classic will capture the hearts and imaginations of every reader.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:00:41 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

The novel follows the trajectory of Eugene Gant, a brilliant and restless young man whose wanderlust and passion shape his adolescent years in rural North Carolina.

» see all 3 descriptions

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