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Kauffman's views.

Bill Kauffman's "The Utica Club" (American Conservative, January-February 2013; online 15 February 2013) begins: "Shortly after entering wedded bliss a quarter-century ago, my wife, a Los Angelena, told me that she wanted to see two cities: Utica and Cleveland. [paragraph] I, as is my wont, made her dreams come true." Later, Kauffman writes:
     America, the myth goes, is a land of perpetual motion, of restless
   pioneers striking out for the West, or in our time, of restive
   television addicts lighting out for Las Vegas....

     And yet the best American writers--even those who follow their
   characters on rafts down the Mississippi, even those who write
   books titled On the Road or You Can't Go Home Again--are almost
   always attached to a place. Not a home page, but a real,
   individuated place that is different from any other place on earth.
   ...

     The regionalist impulse in American letters is greater now than at
   any time since the mid-1930s. Backwoods New England. Romantic North
   Dakota. East Utica. Writers are looking homeward. Standing on what
   they stand for, as Edward Abbey used to say. Only good can come of
   this. The Little America ain't dead yet.


In the March-April 2013 issue of American Conservative, Kauffman's "Home Plate" column on page 41 is titled "Look Homeward, Devil" and begins with a sentence from chapter 22 of You Can't Go Home Again:
     Thomas Wolfe, the adjectival Tar Heel, not the dandified Virginia
   expositor of The Right Stuff, philosophized in his execrably titled
   You Can't Go Home Again that "A man learns a great deal about life
   from writing and publishing a book."

     He can say that again ... and again" (ellipsis in orig.).


Kauffman's execrable opinion of the title of Wolfe's novel is (to continue his theme of Wolfe's prolixity) detestable, wretched, abominable, and damnable. And his next, parenthetical paragraph is one Wolfe would probably have described the same way he depicted a letter from F Scott Fitzgerald in the summer of 1937--as a "bouquet" that "arrived smelling sweetly of roses but cunningly concealing several large-sized brickbats" (The Letters of Thomas Wolfe 642). Kaufman writes:
   (I'll always love Wolfe, who meant a great deal to me when I was
   younger, but one of my favorite stories about the logorrheic author
   is that he prefaced the manuscript that became Look Homeward, Angel
   with an assurance that "I do not believe the writing to be wordy,
   prolix, or redundant.")


The assurance Kauffman refers to is from Wolfe's "Note for the Publisher's Reader," written in late March 1928 and submitted to various publishers with the manuscript of O Lost. In the note, Wolfe followed the above sentence with "... separate scenes are told with as much brevity and economy as possible" (Letters 129). Kauffman discusses the tenth anniversary of his own Dispatches from the Muckdog Gazette (Holt 2003), about his hometown--Batavia, New York. The reaction there wasn't as spirited as that experienced by Wolfe when Look Homeward, Angel was published. Kauffman relates Wolfe's description of that reaction from The Story of a Novel:
     Wolfe described "with bitter chagrin" the reception of Look
   Homeward, Angel by his hometown of Asheville, North Carolina. The
   vitriol fell like acid rain. But then Wolfe had fled North Carolina
   for exile in the Vampire City.

     He wrote of one tormenter: "One venerable old lady, whom I had
   known all my life, wrote me that although she had never believed in
   lynch law, she would do nothing to prevent a mob from dragging my
   'big overgroan karkus' across the public square."


But Kauffman did hear from one elderly lady: "'How could you say that I have an ox-cent?' she asked in her inimitable accent." She also asked him, "why must you use so much profanity?" Kauffman writes: "Wolfe-like, I had known my venerable critic since I was a boy." And after he "acknowledged [his] literary Tourette's," all was forgiven. Kauffman concludes: "You can go home again. And if they'll forgive me, they'll forgive anyone."
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Title Annotation:Notes; Bill Kauffman
Publication:Thomas Wolfe Review
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2013
Words:656
Previous Article:Newspaper notes.
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