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Affronts.

Joseph A. Gillan, a former member of the Thomas Wolfe Society, has self-published a book titled Just Before the Dawn (Likaje: 2008) in which the protagonist--named Thomas--appears to greatly admire Wolfe and Aldo Magi, but not the Society. Gillan writes that Thomas regularly reread "his favorite writer/novelist, Thomas Wolfe," and that he
   even became a member of an organization formed to
   foster and promote study and appreciation of Wolfe,
   the Thomas Wolfe Society, and he attended two or three
   of the group's annual meetings--especially those held
   in Wolfe's birthplace, Asheville, NC., "one of the most
   beautiful spots on God's good earth," Thomas had written
   to Rebecca. The Wolfe Society was made up primarily
   of academicians who, Thomas felt, were by and large
   more interested in what they felt and wrote about Wolfe
   in their overblown and stuffy critiques than they were
   in what the great and talented Wolfe had written. Many
   of them suffered from a tendency to over analyze and
   suffered, in their daily life with "regular" people
      (non-academicians),
   an inability to interact with the hoi polloi
   through their self-imposed "paralysis through analysis"
   and, Thomas thought, their obviously ersatz scholarly
   intellectualism. There were a couple of exceptions in the
   Society, particularly in Thomas's early years as a dues-paying
   member of the group, renowned and brilliant
   scholars who had the touch of the common man that
   too many of the group's latter-day stuffed shirts--too
   taken with their self-inflated academic credentials and
   their (ill-deserved) superiority complexes--did not
   have. One individual in particular was "Aldo," from Sandusky
   a longtime member of the Society, not an academician
   but a working man with a genuine love and
   appreciation of Wolfe's magnificent talent. (81-82)


The narrator's tirade against the Thomas Wolfe Society goes on for paragraphs before concluding:
   But by and large, as a non-academic, Thomas felt
   like an outsider, a "mongrel," as he referred to himself as
   a member of the group. Among members of the Wolfe
   Society, he felt, too, that they treated him as one, a mongrel
   and an outsider.

   Thomas eventually discontinued his membership
   in the Society, even though he continued a great admirer
   of the prodigious talent of Wolfe and he continued
   to reread a Wolfe novel annually--and continued
   an epistolary relationship with his best friend in the society,
   Aldo from Sandusky. (83)


Thomas also mentions Aldo and praises and quotes from Wolfe elsewhere in the book (84, 215, 222-224). Gillan's characterization of Thomas's (and obviously his own) experience with a friendly society that seems to be peopled rather thinly with academics is lamentable.

David Strange writes:
   The dignified restraint with which your "Notes" report
   is written is commendable. But as I often display a
   lack of dignity, I will not be so restrained. In Just before
   the Dawn, Joseph Gillan refers to the Thomas Wolfe Society
   as a "bunch of fucking phonies" (82). He could say
   that this calumny is nothing more than the exaggerated
   rantings of a fictional character, but anyone who would
   believe that, would probably also believe the amusingly
   ridiculous statement on the copyright page that "Any
   resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, ... is entirely
   coincidental." The TWS, in fact, is not a frequent
   topic of discussion in this amateurishly designed ego-trip
   of a novel. The protagonist's four favorite subjects
   seem to be writers, religion, baseball, and cunnilingus--a
   combination that, to this reader at least, sounds like
   an excellent base on which to build a fascinating story.
   The obvious inferiority "Thomas" feels toward scholars,
   however, compels him to stamp his foot like a petulant
   child who has suffered a playground insult. As a member
   of the TWS since 1987, I can--to provide a baseball
   reference that "Thomas" would appreciate--count on
   the mangled fingers of Mordecai Brown's pitching hand
   the number of pompous gasbags I've encountered. Like
   Gillan, they are all former members of the Society.


Also lamentable is the latest treatment of the Thomas Wolfe Memorial in Asheville by the Oxford American. In the December 1995 issue, Thomas Easterling reported on his trip to Asheville and the Memorial with an unkind and rather cruel lampooning of Ted Mitchell and his dedication to Wolfe. Issue 66 (fall 2009) was devoted to southern literature, with Anne Trubek's "Fading from View: Was Thomas Wolfe a Genius? And Should We Care?" appearing as a travel article (106-113). Trubek slants comments from Operations/Interpretations manager Chris Morton to make it appear that Morton denigrates Wolfe and his enthusiasts--identified as "gushers." In his introduction for the issue, editor Marc Smirnoff claims that Trubek's article inspired him to read Look Homeward, Angel, stating "Now I'm hooked. Look Homeward, Angel is a ruthlessly penetrating and language-besotted debut novel about a young man's strain to fit in, to be normal" (10). It is difficult to see how Trubek's essay could inspire anyone to read Thomas Wolfe, but Smirnoff has defended the article against vociferous criticism.
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Title Annotation:Notes
Publication:Thomas Wolfe Review
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2009
Words:812
Previous Article:FDR.
Next Article:Asheville.
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