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"Notes," a feature relating and recording information on Thomas Wolfe and Wolfe studies, includes history (cultural, literary, and otherwise), biography, criticism, and reference. Some entries may inform of discoveries at length; others may simply illustrate and gauge Wolfean influence and presence in popular culture. The Thomas Wolfe Review welcomes your assistance in developing this feature. Please send prints, clippings, e-mails, Web links, or photocopies of suggested new information (with full citation) to J. Todd Bailey, P.O. Box 217, Burnsville, NC28714-0217, or to jtb@ burnsvillencattorneys. com.


And there, as the night grew late, his spirit would surge up in him: sunken in books at midnight ... the feeling of exultancy, joy, and invincible strength would come back; and he was sure that the door would open for him, the magic word be spoken, and that he would make all of the glory power, and beauty of the earth his own.

--Thomas Wolfe, Of Time and the River (1935)

Say the secret word, and a duck will come down and give you fifty dollars.

--Groucho Marx, You Bet Your Life (1954)

As his proem to Look Homeward, Angel suggests, Thomas Wolfe spent much of his short life on this "most weary unbright cinder" seeking "the great forgotten language, the lost lane-end"--a magic word or secret incantation that would open the unfound door (2). His contemporary Groucho Marx knew the secret word at the beginning of every episode of his radio and TV quiz show, You Bet Your Life, which ended its fourteen-season run in 1961. To Wolfe (in the guise of Eugene Gant), the value of the elusive magic word was incalculable, and the difficulty of finding it immense. But Groucho's guests were informed up front exactly how much the secret word was worth, and all they had to do to get their fifty bucks was accidentally say it and then accept the money from a papier-mache duck that dropped down from the rafters on a wire.

Sixty years later, the magic word in the Wolfe world was certainly no secret. Throughout 2014 we were inundated with Wolfean references featuring the evocative word home. From politicians and professional athletes to newspaper columnists and a talking cricket, people (and comic book characters) couldn't resist linking their current topic to Thomas Wolfe and home.

Groucho (born ten years and one day before Wolfe) would surely have approved. A voracious reader who often expressed his love of books--albeit less poetically than did Wolfe in Of Time and the River--Groucho is likely to have read Wolfe in the 1930s or at least to have been aware of his work. At age 80, he wrote the introduction to Richard J. Anobile's collection of still frames and dialogue from Marx Brothers movies, Why a Duck? (Darien, 1971). After explaining that the book's title came from a scene in The Cocoanuts (released by Paramount the same year Scribner's published Look Homeward, Angel), Groucho writes, "Be frank, dear reader. Did you expect to see such fine writing in a book called 'Why a Duck?' Can you imagine what this prose would look like if, say, Maxwell Perkins were my editor--just as he was for Scott Fitzgerald, Tom Wolfe or Sam Hemingway?" (6).

Readers familiar with Groucho's absurdist humor and aware of his knowledge of books and of writers will understand that he was not being earnest when he referred to Hemingway as Sam. And readers familiar with Julia Wolfe's penchant for real estate dealing in Florida in the 1920s might be interested to know that the plot (such as it is) of The Cocoanuts revolves around a 1920s real estate auction scam in Florida. Wolfe wrote to his mother from New York in October 1925 (The Letters of Thomas Wolfe to His Mother, University of North Carolina Press, 1968), "Most of the real estate here has already been bought, but I am told you Florida people are very clever at buying and selling property that does not even exist ..." (101).

As reported in "Notes" in 2013 (vol. 37; 196-97), Wolfe was well aware of the world-famous Marx Brothers, and he apparently saw them live on stage in London in 1931. He found them funny and enjoyed their movies but railed against the pretentiousness of some of their modernist fans. In a 14 January 1931 letter to Henry Volkening--published in Thomas Wolfe's Friendship with Henry Volkening: The Documents (Thomas Wolfe Society, 2005)--Wolfe described the opinions of such people as having "the stink of a horrible weariness ... like the smell of the subway after rush hour" (64).

With so many Wolfe-related mentions of home in 2014, it is appropriate to note that the most popular and successful stage show performed by the Marx Brothers during their vaudeville days premiered one hundred years ago--in September 1914--and was titled Home Again. A century later, as the following five subsections demonstrate, home again was the magic word.


In July, the news that NBA star LeBron James was returning home to northeast Ohio to again play for the team he had once ditched for the Miami Heat was as interesting as the phenomenon of apparent immediate forgiveness among Cleveland Cavaliers fans welcoming him with open arms. So forgiving and welcoming were they, in fact, that residents of James's hometown, Akron, didn't complain much about articles suggesting that Cleveland was his hometown. Perhaps giddy over their star's return, Akronites seemed willing to overlook the slight. After all, the Cavaliers are his "hometown team."

On 11 July 2014, Patrick Gaspard, the United States Ambassador to South Africa, was among the first with a Wolfean take on James's return when he tweeted, "Love that LeBron is defying Thomas Wolfe" (@patrickgaspard). Ambassador Gaspard's message was echoed again and again in numerous tweets mentioning Wolfe in one form or another. At least one featured an image of the dust jacket from You Can't Go Home Again, with this text: "LeBron to Thomas Wolfe: Drop Dead" (@BruceFeiler). Jake Tapper said very much the same thing as Ambassador Gaspard in CNN's The Lead and others followed.

Scott Fowler's "In My Opinion" piece for the Charlotte Observer (titled "Ultimate Home Win for Cavs" in the 12 July 2014 issue; and "LeBron James Proves You Can Go Home Again, and Good for Him" on the newspaper's website [posted 11 July]) includes these lines:
      Good for LeBron James. Good for Cleveland. Bad for
   Thomas Wolfe.

      Wolfe, of course, was the famous Tar Heel writer who
   popularized the phrase: "You can't go home again."

      LeBron, of course, is the famous basketball player
   who now will attempt to do just that.

The most insightful commentary on the whole saga is an opinion piece written for Time magazine by the NBA's career scoring leader, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Posted on the Time website on 12 July 2014, "Why LeBron Can't Go Home Again" features an introductory statement: "LeBron can never go home to the Cleveland he once knew." Abdul-Jabbar notes that James wrote an essay for Sports Illustrated announcing "I'm coming home," but he warns LeBron, "... the awful truth is, as Thomas Wolfe titled one of his most well-known novels, 'You can't go home again.'" Displaying a deeper knowledge of Wolfe's life and work, Abdul-Jabbar continues:
   Wolfe, who took that title with permission from writer
   Ella Winter, used it to mean that once we leave home
   and are battered about by our adventures in life, we become
   changed. And in our disillusioned minds our
   "home" becomes a romanticized symbol of our innocence
   where we dreamed limitlessly and were loved unconditionally.
   But that home, too, has changed because
   of our absence. The residents are more wary.

After observing that, in the minds of Cleveland residents and fans of the city's NBA team, James's return to the Cavaliers after four years away is like that of a "straying husband ... having second thoughts" and "begging forgiveness for his foolish mistake of lustful youth," Abdul-Jabbar relates his own NBA move from Milwaukee to Los Angeles. He notes that he wanted to go home again to his native New York, but that a deal couldn't be worked out, so he ended up with the Lakers. The whole process was accomplished without trashing the city of Milwaukee or its basketball fans. Not so with LeBron James. Abdul-Jabbar writes:
   ... I think this passage from Wolfe's "You Can't Go Home
   Again" sums up LeBron's dilemma: "He had learned that
   in spite of his strange body, so much off scale that it had
   often made him think himself a creature set apart, he
   was still the son and brother of all men living. He had
   learned that he could not devour the earth, that he must
   know and accept his limitations. He realized that much
   of his torment of the years past had been self-inflicted,
   and an inevitable part of growing up. And, most important
   of all for one who had taken so long to grow up, he
   thought he had learned not to be the slave of his emotions."
   In that way, LeBron can come home because he's
   grown up and realizes that being away from home made
   it that much more valuable.

The passage is from the novel's first chapter ("The Drunken Beggar on Horseback"), and Abdul-Jabbar transcribed it perfectly. In this section of You Can't Go Home Again, the narrator is describing George Webber's realization that "he had brought upon himself" much of the trouble he had experienced in his life and that many of his problems "had come from leaping down the throat of things." Webber, says the narrator, "would look before he leaped hereafter." But he knows that (apropos of the chapter title) "The trick was to get his reason and his emotions pulling together in double harness, instead of letting them fly off in opposite directions" (6).

Abdul-Jabbar notes that James's "return to the Cavaliers is good for basketball" and that his maturation has allowed him to come home. But he concludes that, "in another way, LeBron can't go home again. At least not to the home he once knew. They may be grateful and j oyful, but they are also wiser. Like the betrayed spouse, they will have to wait and see."


"The Decline of Harper Lee" by Boris Kachka, online for Vulture on 20 July 2014, discusses a lawsuit by Nelle Harper Lee against a former agent to recover rights to To Kill a Mockingbird; a lawsuit for trademark infringement against the Monroe County Heritage Museum; and Lee's purported insistence--despite contradiction from her sister, Alice--that she did not authorize a memoir by Marja Mills, The Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee (Penguin, 2014). *a Kachka writes, "In 1961, Lee told Life that, unlike Thomas Wolfe, 'I can go home again.' That's debatable, as is the question of why Harper Lee chose to spend so much of her life in a town whose only claim to fame was her fame--a fame she claimed to despise."

The town is Monroeville, Alabama, model for Maycomb in Lee's 1960 novel and in the 1962 movie starring Gregory Peck and Mary Badham. In The Mockingbird Next Door, Mills quotes Lee: "This is not the Monroeville in which I grew up. I don't like it one bit" (38). Kachka also includes that line, along with a photo of "an old stone wall that once separated Lee's childhood home from [Truman] Capote's--both long gone, replaced by a takeout shack called Mel's Dairy Dream." One of several dozen reader comments (this one by "stonecutter0602," 25 July 2014) notes that "the small-town Alabama world [Lee] wrote about has virtually disappeared, replaced by Walmartville, so 'Mockingbird' is now a work of ethereal history." Thomas Wolfe had a similar experience with his hometown, Asheville, North Carolina.


The October 2014 issue of Bold Life ("Western North Carolina's Arts and Culture Monthly," published in Hendersonville) features Katy Nelson's "Going Home Again: The Reawakening," an informative and enjoyable article about Wolfe and his relationship with Asheville. Nelson writes, "This fall, a Wolfe renaissance takes off, powered by an upcoming Hollywood film about the author and his notorious Scribner's editor, Maxwell 'Max' Perkins" (12). Because of its strongly negative connotation, notorious is not the best word choice, but Nelson more than makes up for it with her choice of main interview subject: Laura Hope-Gill.

A poet and a professor at Lenoir-Rhyne University's Center for Graduate Studies in Asheville, Hope-Gill is the driving force behind the university's Thomas Wolfe Center for Narrative and serves as president of the Advisory Board of the Thomas Wolfe Memorial. Her enthusiastic promotion of Asheville, the city's history and architecture, and its connections to Wolfe is infectious (yes, that word can have negative connotations too, but not in this case). The magazine's cover shows Hope-Gill in front of the famous angel statue in Hendersonville's Oakdale Cemetery, along with this teaser title: "Angel of Opportunity: Laura Hope-Gill, Jude Law, and the Thomas Wolfe Revival."

For Asheville residents, Hope-Gill recommends a Wolfe short story, "Boom Town," originally published in the May 1934 issue of the American Mercury (a nearly identical version appears in The Complete Short Stories of Thomas Wolfe [Scribner's, 1987]). She suggests that one should "Read him slowly" and says, "Wolfe told our story, and he keeps retelling it" (13). Nelson writes that "Boom Town" "became a chapter of Wolfe's posthumously published novel You Can't Go Home Again" (13). While it is true that chapter 7 of You Can't Go Home Again is titled "Boom Town," the story in that book is a considerably different version and was broken up and shuffled and shifted around, so it is actually spread across chapters 5, 6, 7, and 9.

In the original story in the American Mercury, Wolfe's protagonist, John Hawke, returns to his hometown of Altamont for a visit in the summer of 1929 and finds "a strange mad life, a glittering city, a wild and drunken fury he had never seen before" (26). Later, as he looks down on the town from the cemetery, "the only plot of land in town which had been preserved from the furious invasions of the real estate men" (31), his lament echoes Harper Lee's comment about Monroeville:
   ... the town where he had spent his childhood and
   which lay stretched out before him in the evening light
   had changed past recognition: the town with its quiet
   streets and the old frame houses which were almost
   obscured below the massed leafy spread of trees, was
   now scarred with hard raw patches of bright concrete
   on which the sun fell wearily, or with raw clumps and
   growths of new construction--skyscrapers, garages,
   hotels, glittering residential atrocities of stucco and
   raw brick--or it was scored and scarred harshly by new
   streets and roads.

      The place looked like a battle field; it was cratered
   and shelltorn with savage explosions of brick and concrete
   all over town. And in the interspaces the embowered
   remnants of the old and pleasant town remained,
   timid, retreating, overwhelmed, to remind one in all this
   harsh new din, of foot-falls in a quiet street as men went
   home at noon, of laughter and quiet voices and the leafy
   rustle of the night. For this was lost! (38-39)

Nelson's article also discusses ongoing efforts to ignite interest in restoring the dilapidated Oteen cabin--now owned by the city of Asheville--where Wolfe stayed during the summer of 1937. Jack Thomson, executive director of the Preservation Society of Asheville and Buncombe County, says, "We are very hopeful that the notoriety of the film ... will encourage the city to be a more aggressive steward of the historic Wolfe cabin" (14; ellipsis in original). OK, look. English is a complicated language. The word notoriety means what the man intended it to mean here, but notorious is a different beastie and is essentially always negative. So it was the wrong choice to describe Maxwell Perkins. Besides, we can't give Nelson a break because she also writes, "Anyone who has stood by the bronzed dress shoes of Thomas Wolfe outside the Old Kentucky Home knows Thomas Wolfe was a large man ..." (16). Wrong. Wolfe was a large man, but those shoes never belonged to him. Once again, the shoes came from the Salvation Army. (To see a brand-new life-size bronze sculpture of Wolfe--without used shoes--go to page 149.)

Wolfe's anti-boomtown sentiments were on full display two days before his birthday in David Cohen's editorial cartoon in the Asheville Citizen-Times (1 October 2014). Cohen's contemporary commentary on the proliferation of restaurants, hotels, and breweries in Asheville is reprinted here with permission:


Wolfe and his strong opinions also figure prominently in "Gatsby's Asheville," an article by Michael Kruse for the July 2014 issue of Our State. The introductory statement on the essay's art deco title page pretty much explains the concept of the piece: "Thomas Wolfe and F. Scott Fitzgerald defined the '20s--the boom and bust, the roar and crash--a period that is easily re-imagined in this timeless North Carolina City." Kruse makes clear Wolfe's connection to Fitzgerald:
   Fitzgerald knew Asheville ... and he would come to
   know of it, too, as the hometown of Thomas Wolfe, a literary
   contemporary, an acquaintance if ultimately not
   quite a friend, a colleague who shared a publisher in
   Scribner's and an editor in the gifted Max Perkins. (85)

And he offers Wolfe's thoughts on Asheville (particularly his views on rampant real estate speculation and paper profits) by quoting from letters to his mother and his brother Frank, as well as from "Boom Town" and his Purdue speech. Despite the extensive quotations, all but one of Kruse's Wolfe transcriptions are perfect (the exception is a passage from a 1924 Wolfe letter to his mother; within a twenty-five word segment there are five transcription errors). The Wolfe quotations--and the full text of the originals--contain some of his most vitriolic attacks on his hometown and on the greed he saw there in the 1920s. Kruse notes Wolfe's prediction in a 1933 letter to his mother that what Asheville did in the 1920s could ruin the city for fifty years: "Asheville paid off its debts from the '20s, finally, in 1976--the half a century of penance Wolfe had all but foretold. He was not the oracle of an era, as some had said of Fitzgerald, but he proved prescient about the extent of its aftermath" (100).

Wolfe also foretold the collapse of Asheville's real estate bubble not long after he had experienced the boomtown atmosphere firsthand on a visit home in 1925. Writing to his sister Mabel Wolfe Wheaton in May 1926 (The Letters of Thomas Wolfe, Scribners, 1956), Wolfe clearly expresses his opinion:
   If your boom returns this summer in full blast, the town
   will eventually get done in the eye--it always happens.
   The people who gain apparently are the near-swindlers
   and the near-thieves who stay within the letter of the
   law ... at the top of the dope-dream.... And, of course,
   it is the Boob, the eternal cocksure Boob, who loses his
   (or her) shirt.... The Boob believes anything he hears
   or sees, as long as he is given a few meaningless statistics.
   ... There is no limit to his ignorance, stupidity, and
   gullibility, but since he sometimes has good intentions,
   I side with him rather than with the crooks who rob him.

Filming of the long-awaited movie Genius has been completed and was in postproduction at the end of the year. Rumors abound about US distribution (Lionsgate is said to be among the interested bidders). No part of the movie was filmed in Asheville, but the big-name cast--Jude Law as Thomas Wolfe, Colin Firth as Maxwell Perkins, Nicole Kidman as Aline Bernstein, Guy Pearce as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Dominic West as Ernest Hemingway, and Laura Linney as Perkins's wife, Louise Saunders--created considerable excitement in Wolfe's hometown, especially when Law toured the city in June. Carol Motsinger's "What Did Jude Law Do in Asheville? Take a Wolfe Tour" (Asheville Citizen-Times online, 19 June 2014) covers Law's visit, noting that Tom Muir (site manager at the Thomas Wolfe Memorial) gave Law a tour of numerous sites associated with Wolfe, including a downtown saloon.

Motsinger also writes about a film representative reaching out to Rev. Barry Ensign-George, an associate for theology at the Office of Theology and Worship at the Presbyterian Mission Agency, to help ensure the accuracy of Wolfe's funeral scene. In "Thomas Wolfe/Jude Law Movie Studies Asheville Funeral" for the Asheville Citizen-Times (online, 7 October 2014), Motsinger reports that, for the Genius crew representative, Ensign-George provided copies of the funeral service from the 1943 publication of the Book of Common Worship from the Presbyterian Church (USA). Wolfe's funeral was held at Asheville's First Presbyterian Church on Sunday, 18 September 1938.

Yet another Carol Motsinger article for the Citizen-Times about Wolfe and his hometown concerns one of the places Tom Muir took Jude Law during his tour of Wolfean sites: the Oteen cabin. In addition to discussing the poor condition of the building and local efforts to do something about it, "Oteen Cabin in Disrepair Boasts Literary Past" (16 November 2014) describes some of Wolfe's experiences in the summer of 1937. Instead of a private place to work, the cabin became a popular destination for celebrity seekers. Muir says, "It turned into a circus.... People would come up the road, come up the mountain there, and claim that they were looking for their lost dog. But they would be looking for their dog with a gallon of corn liquor."

The Citizen-Times "Home of the Week" column highlights the ultimate Wolfe-home connection in Rob Neufeld's article on the Thomas Wolfe Memorial. Posted on the newspaper's website on 14 February 2014, Neufeld's "Home of the Week" essay focuses on the donations made by twelve North Carolina writers (Joseph Bathanti, Fred Chappell, Clyde Edgerton, John Ehle, Charles Frazier, Gail Godwin, Elizabeth Kostova, David Madden, Heather Ross Miller, Robert Morgan, Ron Rash, and Lee Smith) to replace a dozen rocking chairs on the porch of the Old Kentucky Home. He writes:
      Plaques on the chair backs bear the authors' names,
   adding to the connection that one feels sitting in them,
   looking out on Asheville, and imagining Wolfe's influence.

      Many years ago, when I first came to Asheville, my
   wife and I gravitated to the Wolfe porch rockers, and I
   re-read Wolfe, who had penetrated my youth, as he had
   that of so many others.

Neufeld also provides "testimonies" from eleven of the twelve writers about the "meaning that Wolfe has" for them. We urge readers to seek out this article to see what these writers have to say about Wolfe's influence on them.

The Wolf in Winter is a "Charlie Parker Thriller" by John Connolly (Atria, 2014). In the story, Louis is a stylish gay black hit man; his friend, Charlie Parker, has been critically wounded by a team of killers who live an innocuous life in Asheville. Louis is on a mission of gathering information about who was behind the hit, and of revenge, so he travels to Wolfe's hometown. While staking out the female team of killers at the Battery Park Book Exchange in the Grove Arcade (a real-life establishment that, in addition to books, sells wines and small bites of food), Louis sits next to four women discussing a biography of Cleopatra.
   Louis sat with a glass of Pinot Noir by his right hand and
   a copy of Max Perkins: Editor of Genius, by A. Scott Berg,
   on his lap. He had picked up the Berg book because
   Perkins had edited Thomas Wolfe, probably Asheville's
   most famous son, and Louis, who couldn't stand Wolfe's
   writings, was trying to understand why Perkins had
   bothered. As far as he could tell from reading the relevant
   sections in Berg's biography, the only reason that
   Wolfe's debut, Look Homeward, Angel, was even marginally
   tolerable was that Perkins had forced Wolfe to remove
   more than sixty thousand words from it. At Louis's
   rough estimate, that still left Look Homeward, Angel--which
   in the store's Scribner edition, ran to about 500
   pages--at least 499 pages too long. (362)

Explaining why to visit Asheville, Kari Kynard Ridge--in a 31 July 2014 posting on Wolfe and Fitzgerald. In "10 Cities You Must Visit IfYou Are Writer, Poet or Literature Lover" (a title eschewing the indefinite article and the serial comma), Ridge observes:
   After writing so realistically about his relatives and
   neighbors in his hometown of Asheville in Look Homeward,
   Angel Thomas Wolfe did not return home for several
   years, until the hubbub had ceased over his airing
   local resident's flaws. Old Kentucky Home, the boardinghouse
   run by his mother and also his childhood
   home, was immortalized into the novel as "Dixieland."
   Today, the town celebrates Wolfe through tours of Old
   Kentucky Home.

Evidently, Ridge also eschews the definite article. Interestingly, the only image appearing with the essay, despite its covering ten cities (including Harper Lee's Monroeville, Alabama), is a large image of the Thomas Wolfe Memorial.

Historian Kevan D. Frazier's Legendary Locals of Asheville (Arcadia, 2014) is a compendium of photographs of people who figure in Asheville's history, with lengthy captions or paragraphs of text. A photo of Wolfe is one of several in a collage on the cover. The same picture of Wolfe is featured in chapter 5, "Authors, Artists and Musicians," with a paragraph summarizing his life and career (89). Frazier refers to Aline Bernstein as "the love of his life" in the summary, which is correct as to facts and generally correct as to judgments. Wolfe is also mentioned in connection with other people. For example the entry on Harry Blomberg notes that he "bought and saved Julia Wolfe's boardinghouse, which was eventually turned into a memorial to her son, famed author Thomas Wolfe" (63). And the entry on Charles G. "Buzz" Tennent notes that at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, "As editor of The Tarheel, the student newspaper, he convinced young Thomas Wolfe to join the staff" (72).


Wiley Cash's 2012 novel, A Land More Kind Than Home, has been translated into Italian and published by Libri Mondadori (2014), but it was given the title Non puoi tornare a casa (roughly, "You can't go home"). This is the same title as the 1962 Italian translation of Wolfe's You Can't Go Home Again. Why the publisher chose this title instead of a more accurate translation of Cash's original--which he borrowed from the concluding passages of You Can't Go Home Again--is not known.

Bill Bratton, who served as Commissioner of the New York Police Department in the 1990s, returned to that post in 2014, appointed by new mayor, Bill de Blasio. At the inauguration ceremony on 2 January, Bratton asked, "Who says you can't go home again?" Bratton's borrowing from Wolfe was also used by the New York Daily News as part of the title of Jennifer Fermino's report (posted on the Daily News website on 2 January 2014).

By Blood We Live, one of Glen Duncan's werewolf novels (Knopf, 2014), alternates among several narrators (including vampires). Justine is a young woman who has just been transformed into a vampire, and her sudden awareness that there is no going back leads to a memory: "... I'd noticed the title of one of the books on the shelf in front of me. It was called You Can't Go Home Again" (43). Later, still unable to fully accept what she has become, that thought returns: "The book title I'd noticed yesterday came back to me: You Can't Go Home Again. It meant something different now. It made me doubt myself" (130). Finally, on a long drive to Las Vegas, Justine thinks, "A McDonald's M rose up on the left. A Subway. A KFC. Like flags waving from the old life. That book title. You Can't Go Home Again" (161).

John Krull's commentary column about the decision of a federal judge to strike down Indiana's ban on same-sex marriage in June 2014 (BloomingtonHerald-Times, 29 June 2014) is titled "Judge to Gay Hoosiers: Finally You Can Go Home Again."

Different Views: TV Media Insights opens its 8 July 2014 posting about Rosie O'Donnell's return to the television show The View with "Sometimes you can go 'home' again." But Meredith Vieira, one of the original hosts of The View (she left in 2006, shortly before O'Donnell began her first stint on the show) has a different take. As noted on several websites, Vieira responded to a reporter's question (13 July 2014) about returning to The View: "Having gone back several times [as a guest] and being greeted very lovingly each time ... you realize you really can't go home again." She added, "I'm sort of the aunt, the crazy aunt who took off, and now she's back. So no, I'd love to go as a guest...."

Epitomizing the appalling inaccuracy of so many websites, some (Hollywood Reporter and Us, for example) silently deleted Vieira's "really" and instead quote her as saying "You can't go home again." In addition to making other silent emendations to her statement, both of these sites use Wolfe's exact phrase (quoting Vieira as if she had said it) in the titles of their postings.

The protagonist in Doing It at the Dixie Dew (Minotaur-St. Martin's, 2014), an award-winning mystery novel by TWS member Ruth Moose, returns to her small North Carolina hometown after many years away. During a particularly trying time in the story, she asks herself, "Why did I ever think I could come home again? Could anybody ever?" (226).

For his "From the Editor's Desk" column in War, Literature & the Arts (vol. 26, 2014), Donald Anderson reviews Phil Klay's collection of short stories, Redeployment (Penguin, 2014), winner of the National Book Award for fiction. Anderson titled his article "You Can't Come Home Again: Phil Klay's Redeployment.


Chapter 6 of "Happily Ever After," which is part of Fables, a 150-issue series of comic books, is the heart of issue number 146 and is titled "The Thomas Wolfe Syndrome." (Vertigo-DC Comics, Jan. 2015; released 19 Nov. 2014). Fables writer and creator Bill Willingham opens "The Thomas Wolfe Syndrome" with two birds and a wyvern (Google it) discussing how the smaller bird came to be in this particular forest. "It's been a hundred years since we've seen a bluebird in this land," says the crow. To which the wyvern adds, "I thought my kind had long since et them all." *b As the conversation continues, the little bird says that he is in fact from an entirely different world and tries to explain something about his magical powers--information that is wasted on his two intellectually challenged inquisitors. He then informs the crow and the wyvern that he has a job to do before heading home. The following conversation ensues:

The wyvern: "Home? You can't go home again. Tom Wolf said that."

The blue bird: "The books of Thomas Wolfe are available here?"

The wyvern: "Books? No. No books. What's this got to do with books?"

The crow: "I saw a book once."

The wyvern: "Tom Wolf said it. Tom. The wolf what lives down by yonder scarp of limestone. Just across the pond. Tom said it to little Lucy Halflamb, who very much wanted to go home at the time."

At this point, the dialogue takes a very dark turn, and the crow and wyvern decide to attack the small bird. We won't give away the result of the battle, but Fables cognoscenti know that the little fellow is actually a full-size troll named Grimble who has had a spell cast on him but was allowed to keep his "vigor."

"The Thomas Wolfe Syndrome" concludes when Rose Red, a major character in Fables, acquires new powers, but has some doubts. Her cricket guide (evidently that sort of thing is perfectly normal in this universe) transports her to a place she knows well, but doesn't recognize at first. "Where are we?" she asks. After explaining that she's looking at her childhood home, the cricket *c says, "Except--y'know--Thomas Wolfe was right. You can't actually go home again."


The Thomas Wolfe Society's 2014 special publication, For Posterity's Sake, includes two footnotes with information on Wolfe's tour of the MGM studios in Hollywood in 1935. Citing an entry in The Notebooks of Thomas Wolfe (University of North Carolina Press, 1970), the footnotes state that George Oppenheimer of MGM accompanied Wolfe on at least part of the studio tour, if not all of it, and that Wolfe returned to Oppenheimer's office afterward. What the editors of For Posterity's Sake did not know at press time was that this was the same George Oppenheimer who, while taking a postgraduate course at Harvard in 1920, served as property manager for Wolfe's play The Mountains. He was also editor of The Passionate Playgoer: A Personal Scrapbook (Viking, 1958), which includes a section titled "Thomas Wolfe Goes to Harvard." In addition to an essay by John Mason Brown and an excerpt from chapter 16 of Of Time and the River, the section features introductory remarks by Oppenheimer in which he describes himself in 1920 as "a hangeron at the 47 Workshop" (53). He also writes:
   Although I propped for Wolfe's play, I barely knew him
   until years later when he had forsworn playwriting and
   become a novelist. Nevertheless playwriting was his
   first love, and much of the bitterness attendant upon his
   failure as a dramatist is revealed in the selection from Of
   Time and the River.... (54)

"Behind the Scenes at 47 Workshop," a fascinating paper presented in 1966 and published in the Proceedings of the Cambridge Historical Society the following year, was posted on the organization's website in June 2014. Elizabeth W. Bolster writes that her "connection with the Workshop was supposedly secretarial, but actually resulted in my being receptionist, general factotum, crying towel, listener to tales of woe, and dogsbody" (116). In this job she came into contact with Wolfe:
   My cubbyhole of an office on the lower floor of Massachusetts
   Hall had a window looking out on the Harvard
   Yard. Often Tom Wolfe would drape his six feet and six-or-seven
   inches from outside to inside over the window
   opened from the top. From him in this position I have
   no doubt that I heard most of his book Of Time and the
   River, as his ideas poured forth just like a river indeed!
   All he needed was a captive audience, any captive, of
   which I was certainly top man (or woman), from nine to
   five daily. I got so that I could listen with one ear, talk on
   the telephone, type letters, while he flowed on relentlessly.
   Be it ever to G.P.'s [George Pierce Baker's] credit
   that he recognized the genius of this man, but persuaded
   Tom that he should write books, not plays. We
   put on one of his plays, "Welcome to Our City," and it's a
   wonder the audience isn't still there listening to the first
   performance! (It is interesting to note that this play was
   published in full in Esquire, October 1957.) (116-17)

Bolster's comment about hearing "most of his book Of Time and the River" might be just a rhetorical flourish, but Wolfe--with his tendency to jabber about his work and the everyday events of his life--may well have related episodes that he later transformed into fiction for the novel. Baker, according to his biographer, Wisner Payne Kinne (George Pierce Baker and the American Theatre [Harvard University Press, 1954]), did tell Wolfe that "Your gift is not selection, but profusion" (229), but he did not directly persuade Wolfe to give up playwriting.

Bolster also mentions Wolfe's work when she discusses production week at the Agassiz Theatre: "Tom Wolfe's 'Welcome to Our City' (which I have mentioned before, in five acts and doubtless more that he was made to cut out, written in his own bitter, caustic style about corrupt Southern politics) ..." (119). And again when writing about the end-of-season parody plays, the "47 Varieties": "I well remember, the parody on a play of Tom Wolfe's was titled 'Sheep's Clothing' ..." (120).


The academic cheating scandal plaguing the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was the subject of an essay for Tar Heel Times ("The UNC Saga: Anatomy of a Media Scandal," online 14 July 2014) by Thomas Eckerman. Note that the predicate in the preceding sentence is in the past tense. That's because the article is no longer available on the Tar Heel Times website. But--and pay close attention to this, kids--nothing posted on the Web ever goes away. As of the end of the year, Eckerman's opinion piece was available on the "Blog and Media Roundup" page for 15 July 2014 on Because you are reading the Thomas Wolfe Review, not the comments section of a sports blog, there is no need to go into the details or discuss the credibility of Eckerman's rant about UNC's predicament (his essay title, though, is a dead giveaway). But his reading comprehension skills need some work.

One of the media culprits he identifies is Bloomberg Businessweek's Paul M. Barrett, whom he accuses of "playing the race card" by (in addition to mentioning slavery) tying UNC to Thomas Wolfe. Eckerman writes:
   The author and UNC alumnus, Thomas Wolfe, was a
   legendary writer and racist. To bring up UNC's slave history
   ... and the name of Thomas Wolfe in the context of
   the UNC scandal could only be interpreted to mean that
   UNC is practicing a form of modern day slavery upon
   many of its student athletes who happen to be black.

Eckerman's effort to defend his alma mater continues with an attack on Barrett's: "[Harvard] benefitted from slavery more than any other university in the country." And, he adds, "Harvard Professor Louis Agassiz ... arguably did more to damage the fortunes of black people than any man in U.S. history." According to Eckerman, Agassiz "makes Thomas Wolfe look like a saint." *d

Yes, Wolfe had been "carefully taught" (to quote from a song that would be written a decade after his death), but to vilify him as a "legendary ... racist" is an exaggeration. What's more important--and sad--is that Eckerman trashed the wrong Wolfe. The quotation to which he is directly responding (he provides part of the passage just before wrapping Wolfe in a white sheet) is from Barrett's "UNC Academic Fraud Scandal Sparks Racial Recriminations" (, 4 February 2014): "The University of North Carolina academic fraud scandal has entered its Tom Wolfe phase, revealing a racial subtext of the uniquely ironic and bitter American variety."

As if the use of Tom--not Thomas--isn't a big enough clue, the second clause of the sentence makes it obvious that Barrett is referring to the foppish, affected author of The Bonfire of the Vanities. But Eckerman thinks he is talking about the decidedly non-foppish and non-affected author of Look Homeward, Angel. Perhaps his confusion arises from the fact that Barrett actually does mention Thomas Wolfe in a later article (posted on on 27 February 2014)--although in a positive light: "'The Carolina Way,' an ethos of pride, achievement, and integrity, is taken quite seriously in Chapel Hill. UNC counts among its alumni ... novelists Thomas Wolfe and Russell Banks...."

Within a day of the appearance of Eckerman's essay, the Duke Basketball Report, a site covering the sport at Duke University, where all are pure and nothing untoward ever happens, JD King mocks Eckerman in a posting titled "UNC Scandal Mostly Because of Media Malpractice." He writes, "To date, UNC has appeared to be more interested in burying the scandal than getting to the truth." King was apparently too busy wallowing in schadenfreude to do any fact-checking and didn't notice that Eckerman had misread Barrett's reference to Tom Wolfe (whose 2004 novel, I Am Charlotte Simmons, is set at fictional Dupont University, which is clearly modeled on Duke). But this lack of due diligence turned out to be a good thing. It resulted in King, of Duke, being a prince and stoutly defending Wolfe, of Carolina, against Eckerman's caricature. The final third of his essay focuses on "The Child by Tiger" and "I Have a Thing to Tell You." He concludes, "It's easy to apply the standards of one's own era to people of earlier times, but we might consider how our age will be found lacking later. It may not be pretty."


William M. O'Brien is evidently not a fan of Thomas Wolfe. At least his protagonist and narrator, Paul Hereford, in The Vampires of Eden (Abbott, 2013)--which has nothing to do with mythical bloodsuckers--seems to enjoy taking potshots at Wolfe. He and his friend Raphe, recalling their teen years, begin a rapid-fire conversation:

"A leaf, a stone, a lot of words--"

"A book, o lost--"

"O found!"

"We merry band of scribblers."

"A leaf, a book, a pile of leaves, a door, a lot of crap--"

"You can jump into a pile of leaves, or a pile of shit, but you cannot go home again."

We began to laugh uproariously in a great liberating spasm that expelled the last of my animosity. (188-89)

Later, during a visit to a used bookstore, Paul tells us, "... I found and acquired a clean, faded hardbound copy of You Can't Go Home Again. I wanted to see if it were true that you can't read Thomas Wolfe again. There was no definitive ruling" (380). Finally, in a conversation with Raphe, Paul says, "Well, if I've learned anything, it's that you can't change the past.... I've been reading You Can't Go Home Again--" (383).

While reviewing Paul Sorrentino's Stephen Crane: A Life of Fire (Belknap 2014) for the Weekly Standard (18 August 2014), James Seaton couldn't resist poking Wolfe in the eye with a sharp stick. In "Seeing 'Red': The Imaginary Lives of an American Realist," Seaton writes:
   Sorrentino supports his claim that Crane "opened the
   gates to modern American literature" by asserting that
   Crane's "reliance on personal experience for literary inspiration
   foreshadowed the fiction of Ernest Hemingway,
   Sherwood Anderson, and Thomas Wolfe." Leaving
   aside the question of whether anticipating Thomas
   Wolfe should be taken as a sign of literary excellence,
   Crane's career does not clearly demonstrate the value of
   relying on "personal experience for literary inspiration,"
   a notion that was already widespread when Crane embraced

The passage quoted by Seaton is on page 11 of the biography, where Sorrentino himself makes no such snippy comment. In fact, in an earlier discussion about Thomas Beer's 1923 biography of Crane (which Sorrentino dismantles as wildly inaccurate), he quotes from The Web and the Rock (476) as he notes Beer's connection to Wolfe:
   Ironically, the fabricator of Crane's life was himself to
   become a fabrication in American fiction. A good friend
   of Thomas Wolfe, Beer is portrayed in Wolfe's You Can't
   Go Home Again and The Web and the Rock as Stephen
   Hook, who lives "almost completely in the lives of others."
   Whether in the fabricated Stephen Crane or in
   Wolfe's novels, the real Thomas Beer disappears, yet his
   influence has lived on. (2)


Warren R B Dixon's most recent novel, Yestermorrow (XLibris, 2014), includes a couple of Wolfean references. As his train is pulling away from the station, the protagonist, Morgan, watches the receding figure of another character, Marlene, on the platform: "her face like a flower" (83). The phrasing is borrowed from Wolfe's description of Esther Jack in The Web and the Rock. And later, Morgan, who is a writer, twice refers to one of his published works, The Love That Ended Yesterday in Texas (119, 120)--obviously a reference to Wolfe's line from the second paragraph of Look Homeward, Angel.

Though not part of the novel itself, Robert Morgan's "Reaching across Boundaries: A Short Note from the Author" is included in the back material of Algonquin's 2007 edition of his 2003 novel, Brave Enemies. In the note, he writes, "One of the models I had in mind when I first wrote from a woman's point of view in my 1992 novella The Mountains Won't Remember Us was Thomas Wolfe's story 'The Web of Earth,' a monologue spoken by his mother" (315).

Kings Go Forth (Morrow, 1956) is one of five novels by Joe David Brown (1915-76). A 1958 movie based on the book starred Frank Sinatra, Tony Curtis, and Natalie Wood. In the book, the protagonist complains to Monique that her French friends talked about things he didn't understand. She asks if he found them too intellectual, and he responds that he doesn't know what an intellectual is, explaining that he used to think he read intellectuals but found out they weren't. When asked who, he responds:

--Well, Thomas Wolfe for one. I read everything he wrote. I almost cried the day I read he died. I felt I knew him so well. I thought that he was an intellectual because he made me think about ... well, things I had never thought about before. He made it seem all right for me to like things the other guys laughed about. It was a shock to me when I found out that the critics didn't think he was an intellectual at all; they thought he was anti-intellectual.

--They were wrong. He was an American intellectual, she said firmly.

--Thank you, I said.

--Wolfe thought that intellect was man's supreme faculty--he showed it in every word he wrote. It is true that he was a passionate man, an oddly passionate man, but being an intellectual does not mean that one abandons everything except intellect. It means that one uses the intellect to guide one's other faculties. Europeans seem to understand that better than Americans do. You could be an intellectual if you wished. (97-98; ellipsis in orig.)


The most recent life-size bronze sculpture of historical figures to be installed on the Kester International Promenade at High Point University is Thomas Wolfe. Renowned sculptor Jon Hair, whose studio is in Cornelius, North Carolina, was commissioned in 2014 to create the Wolfe "bench figure." The sculpture joins twenty-two others by Hair already on the promenade: Aristotle, Beethoven, John Coltrane, Marie Curie, Ameila Earhart, Albert Einstein, Galileo, Mohandas K. Gandhi, Thomas Jefferson, Helen Keller, Dr. Martin Luther King, Leonardo da Vinci, Abraham Lincoln, Mother Teresa, Sir Isaac Newton, Rosa Parks, Theodore Roosevelt, Sacajawea, Shakespeare, Mark Twain, George Washington, and John Wesley.


   ... which had no boundaries in time and space, where
   lurked musical and strange names and mythical and
   lost peoples, and which was itself only a name musical
   and strange.

We have been recommending Raintree County (Houghton Mifflin, 1948) for many years, and now we have another opportunity: the 100th birthday of its author, Ross Lockridge Jr., born in Bloomington, Indiana, 25 April 1914. Perhaps the best way to read this remarkable novel, which--at close to 1,100 pages--is longer than Of Time and the River, is total immersion, which is how Joe Bentz has suggested reading Thomas Wolfe.

Steve King, who writes reviews for the Daybook series on the Barnes and Noble website, posted "Raintree's Tragic Ending" on 4 January 2014. He says that Raintree County was "greeted by the first reviewers as the next Great American Novel," that Lockridge was "anointed as the next Thomas Wolfe," and that "Through the lens of a single day--July 4, 1892--Raintree County tells the story of a small Indiana town and its schoolmaster, elaborated into a national epic and more."

Part of the centennial celebration in the spring of 2014 was an exhibition of selections from the extensive Lockridge archive at Indiana University's Lilly Library, including the author's personal copy of You Can't Go Home Again. According to Larry Lockridge, who prepared a descriptive bibliography of the archive for the Lilly Library in 2011, his father's 1942 Sun Dial Press edition of You Can't Go Home Again contains "Much commentary, often derogatory, and underlining by RLJ [Ross Lockridge Jr.] throughout. Considerable Gregg shorthand with considerable significance, given the contours of RLJ's own life."

So many reviewers and critics compared Lockridge to Wolfe and cited him as an influence, that Lockridge became quite sensitive about it. Michael Johnson, in "Come, O, Come to Raintree County"--the title is from page 402 of the novel--for Open Letters Monthly (1 March 2014), notes that Lockridge
   ... rejected out of hand any comparison with Thomas
   Wolfe, despite the views of several critics who saw similarities,
   especially in their prolixity. In his private notes,
   Lockridge admitted to some ambivalence about Wolfe's
   talent. He saw Look Homeward, Angel as a "Strange mad
   book! Character-drawing dreadful. No sense of form--and
   yet a strangely wonderful book."

"Lockridge's prose was his own," says Johnson, "at once sophisticated and natural." Comparisons to Wolfe rankled because "He considered his plot structure more disciplined than Wolfe's." In his 1994 biography for Viking, Shade of the Raintree (a "Centennial Edition" was issued by Indiana University Press in 2014), Larry Lockridge reports that his father "was convinced his ... novel had intricate, discernible, meaningful form" (305). Still, as Johnson admits, "... it is easy to get lost in Raintree, as I had in Wolfe's giant tomes, not to mention War and Peace."


A number of factors contributed to Lockridge's depression and suicide a few weeks before his thirty-fourth birthday. Certainly his long, contentious battle with Houghton Mifflin over deep cuts the publisher wanted played a role. Johnson writes:
   As the editors sharpened their blue pencils, Lockridge's
   doubts grew and accumulated, prompting him to write
   to a friend that he had hoped in vain that his publisher
   would provide "the same conviction and backing ...
   that Wolfe had from [Maxwell] Perkins.... Bref what I
   want is a chance to liberate the classic that is in it." After
   publication, several critics had similar thoughts. Newsweek
   said Raintree "might have been a really magnificent
   work" if Lockridge had found a Maxwell Perkins.
   "Obviously there was no such word craftsman about."

To his eternal shame, Wolfe's friend Hamilton Basso displayed all the critical acumen of Elmer Fudd in his review of Raintree County for the 10 January 1948 issue of the New Yorker. The review was so mean-spirited and sloppily researched that, Larry Lockridge reports, it "became a major embarrassment for The New Yorker itself" (405). Basso didn't even get the author's name right, calling him "Mr. Lockwood" throughout. He disparagingly compared him to Wolfe--and took a snitty swipe at his dead friend while he was at it (79-80). Eight weeks later, a Bloomington newspaper chose to refute Basso with a prominent editorial that highlighted several of his nastiest remarks for all the local folks to see and pointed out Basso's lazy errors. Intended as a defense of Raintree County, the editorial appeared on 6 March 1948. Lockridge committed suicide that evening (Larry Lockridge 441-44).


In its "Arts Briefly" section on 25 November 2014, the New York Times reports that a long-lost 1950 letter from Neal Cassady that inspired Jack Kerouac's On the Road has been found and was to be auctioned on 17 December. Generally referred to as the Joan Anderson letter, for a girlfriend Cassady mentions in it, the letter has been known from a retyped version. The newspaper mentions that "Kerouac once described it as 'the greatest piece of writing I ever saw, better'n anybody in America, or at least enough to make Melville, Twain, Dreiser, Wolfe, I dunno who, spin in their graves'" (C3). The auction was canceled, or indefinitely postponed, after the Kerouac and Cassady estates made competing claims of ownership.

"Freedom Writers," a feature article about the 121-year history of the University of North Carolina's campus newspaper, the Daily Tar Heel, was published in the March/April 2014 issue of the Carolina Alumni Review. In addition to reporting on an upcoming book about the newspaper (Print News and Raise Hell: The Daily Tar Heel and the Evolution of a Modern University), author David E. Brown writes, "The paper was an incubator not only for some of the most prominent American journalists ... but for some of the University's premier leaders and most distinguished alumni" (30, 33). Among its famous editors are Charles Kuralt, UNC presidents Edward Kidder Graham and Frank Porter Graham, and Thomas Wolfe (33). A photo of Wolfe as editor from the 1920 Yackety Yack is reproduced on page 32.

In light of the current situation at UNC discussed above, and the heavy emphasis on sports at almost all colleges, it is interesting to read in Brown's essay about the plight of Ed Yoder and Louis Kraar, co-editors of the Daily Tar Heel nearly sixty years ago. They faced hostility and a recall referendum in 1956 because of their editorializing against the new football coach for his "win-at-all-costs reputation" and "outsized emphasis on the game" (38). Yoder, who went on to become a renowned journalist with the Washington Star and the Washington Post, is an active member of the Thomas Wolfe Society. As reported by Brown, Yoder's editorial stance included the following, written upon the hiring of the new coach:
   The Daily Tar Heel believes as strongly in winning sports
   as anyone else. But we do not believe in subsidies for
   athletic prowess alone. We do not believe that a football
   coach should receive more money than the President of
   the University. And we would sooner see intercollegiate
   sports stopped than the University made over into an
   athletic Cuckoo-Land. (39)

Tom Orr's "Ridge Lines" column in the Hendersonville (NC) Times-News (21 September 2014) views the end of summer and the approaching season of falling leaves and cooler weather:

Life goes by.

Viewing the angel in Oakdale Cemetery, I am reminded of the author who immortalized it--Thomas Wolfe. The Asheville author possessed an almost photographic memory. October was his favorite month--with its "brilliant hues of blazing colors / Painting the air with sharpness." (E1)

Based on their formatting as poetry, the words are from "October," arranged by John S. Barnes in A Stone, a Leaf, a Door (Scribner's, 1945). Barnes took them from chapter 39 of Of Time and the River. Orr discusses Wolfe's return to Asheville in 1937, his work as a newspaper carrier for the Asheville Citizen as a boy, and his essay "Return" in the Citizen-Times on 16 May 1937. He also writes of his own realization that--as he watched the leaves in some tall poplar trees when a strong breeze blew through them--that he finally understood what Wolfe meant by "leaves quaking." "We need to find the poet within us," Orr writes (E1). And he concludes: "I turn to poets to teach me how to see. I do not want to miss any detail or intimation. This is my home. I want to view my world as a poet might. The world, around and within, is restless. Summer is ending" (E4).


--There's shump'n I mush shay t'you--

--Damn fool! Go to bed!

--Go to bed, my balls! I'll go to bed when I'm Goddamn good and ready! I'll not go to bed when there's shump'n I mush shay t'you-- ...

--You damn fool!--You don't know what you're talkin' 'bout! Go on to bed!--

--I'll go to bed, you bastard--I got shump'n to shay t'you!--Prayin' for me, are yuh?--Pray for yourself, y' bloody little Deke!

--Damn fool's crazy! Go on to bed now--

--I'll bed yuh, you son-of-a-bitch! What was it that y' said that day?--

--Of Time and the River (73)

TWS member Mark Young wrote to tell us why he has had an interest in Thomas Wolfe for such a long time. And it turns out to have something to do with Eugene Gant's drunken rant to his friend Robert Weaver on the train from Altamont to New York in chapter 4 of Of Time and the River. Here is a lightly edited version of Young's comments:
   My mother told me years ago that her father was
   mentioned by name in Thomas Wolfe's second novel,
   Of Time and the River. My grandfather was born in 1896
   and moved from Yonkers, New York, as a small boy to
   Asheville, North Carolina. I've been a member of the
   Thomas Wolfe Society for more than 20 years, partly
   because of my mother's telling me that my grandfather
   had met Wolfe and knew of him. Sadly my interest
   piqued after my grandfather had developed Alzheimer's.

   I recently stumbled upon the passage that my
   mother had told me about. It's on page 73. Wolfe calls
   him Carl Hartshorn. In real life my grandfather's name
   was Edwin S. Hartshorn, and there's a well-known picture
   of him in Mitzi Schaden Tessier's Asheville: A Pictorial
   History (Donning, 1982). The picture, titled "Going
   to Chapel Hill," shows my grandfather as a young
   man with three others in front of a train as college freshmen
   saying farewell at the Asheville Depot in 1913. Tessier
   uses this picture as a tie-in to Wolfe: "The four men,
   who roomed together at University Inn, were joined on
   the train three years later by another university freshman,
   Thomas Wolfe. In Look Homeward, Angel, Tom described
   his protagonist's train ride with university students
   from Asheville" (103).

   My love of Wolfe began with this emotional tie.
   Wolfe's writings have taken me on a long ride that I am
   still enjoying. I've never shared this because I just recently
   made the Of Time and the River discovery my
   mother had told me about so many years ago. By the
   way, in the 1950s my grandfather, an attorney, was
   mayor of Biltmore Forest for most of that decade.
   Thanks for allowing me to share this!

Eugene's verbal assault on Robert refers to an earlier scene in which Robert had teased him, saying some old gossips in Altamont were praying for him. Overly sensitive about such things even when sober, Eugene--now gloriously drunk on "savagely instant corn whiskey" (66)--recalls an incident from who knows how far back in which he thinks Robert acted as though he were too good to speak to Eugene around his "Deke" buddies:

--What day? You damned fool, you don't know what you're saying!

--I'll tell yuh what day!--Coming along Chestnut Street that day after school with you and me and Sunny Jim Curtis and Ed Petrie and Bob Pegram and Carl Hartshorn and Monk Paul--and the rest of those boys--

--You damn fool! Chestnut Street! I don't know what you're talking about!

--Yes, you do!--You and me and Bob and Carl and ... (73)

So Eugene mentions the character modeled on Mark Young's grandfather twice, and he seems to have been a friend. It should be pointed out that Eugene's drunken rant ends without physical violence, as Robert and another young man are able to get Eugene calmed down and into his berth aboard the train.


We began this 2014 installment of "Notes" by discussing the year's magic word, home, so it is fitting to conclude with it as well.

"The Book List" column in The Week for 5 December 2014 features "Best books ... chosen by Ron Rash." Along with Absalom, Absalom!, All the King's Men, Suttree, Wise Blood, and The Moviegoer, Rash selected Look Homeward, Angel. His comment: "I read this book when I was 17, and as it has been for writers from Philip Roth to Pat Conroy, it played a huge role in my wanting to write fiction. Published in 1929 and unduly neglected of late, it remains our nation's finest bildungsroman."

The "Cultural Studies" feature in the "Sunday Styles" section of the New York Times on 19 October 2014 by Meg Wolitzer notes the outburst when critic Ruth Graham published a piece in Slate arguing against adults reading young-adult (Y.A.) literature. Wolitzer disagrees with Graham, and--though there is no mention of Wolfe--her essay is titled "Look Homeward, Reader" (S2).

"Ageless Beauty" is the title of Stephanie Granada's article on the actress, and former Asheville resident, Andie McDowell for the September 2014 issue of Southern Living (F6). Granada organizes information from her interview with McDowell into captioned snippets. Under "On Hollywood," the blurb ends with McDowell's comment: "I wear this bracelet everyday, and it says 'Look Homeward, Angel,' from Thomas Wolfe's book. My kids gave it to me to remind me that I'm never alone" (F7).

Wolfe has once again been featured on Jeopardy!. In a show broadcast in many cities on 2 October 2014--in the category "Literary Self-Portraits"--one of the answers was "Eugene Gant in this novel and its sequel 'Of Time and the River' was based on the author Thomas Wolfe." The question, of course, was "What is Look Homeward, Angel?"

Dorothy Kilgallen's syndicated "The Voice of Broadway" column for 13 December 1957 includes this interesting nugget:
   The current Broadway success of "Look Homeward,
   Angel" has pushed the works of Thomas Wolfe into the
   hot property classification. Producer Paul Gregory has
   snared the film rights to three Wolfe novels and hopes
   to get Ingrid Bergman and Rock Hudson to costar in
   one of them. Ironically, at the time of Wolfe's death two
   decades ago, the Hollywood moguls regarded his writings
   as "too deep" for movie audience consumption.

With thanks to Rev. Steven Autrey, Mary Bailey Deborah A. Borland, Christopher Bruno, Rena Corey, Alice R. Cotten, George L Fouke, John Halberstadt, Jan G. Hensley, Bert Hitchcock, George Hovis, Margie Huggins, Marjorie A. Kashdin, Aldo P. Magi, Patrick McCroskey, Cameron Privette, Jim Privette, David Radavich, Dan Reineke, James Ritz, Terry Roberts, Nate Tibbits, and Mark Young.

*a The tawdry gossip surrounding the publicity-shy Harper Lee, who has very poor hearing and eyesight and suffered a stroke in 2007, only became sadder when news surfaced of the forthcoming publication of another novel by the author. The intent to publish a manuscript predating To Kill a Mockingbird (titled Go Set a Watchman) set off a media frenzy questioning Lee's competence and her attorney's scruples that would make Kachka's article appear tame.

*b (1) Boldface type is used exactly as it appears in the original. (2) There are no page numbers, so scholars researching Wolfe's influence on wyverns and talking crows (it could happen; dissertations have been written on less) will just have to flip through the comic book. (3) The little bird with blue feathers is not a bluebird, despite the emphasis on that word. He appears to be an indigo bunting. This error in avian identification suggests a serious gap in the education system on that planet. Or maybe these two characters just aren't very bright. Everyone knows that the past tense of eat ain't et.

*c This cricket isn't your typical tiny black or gray chirper in the corner. Nor does he wear a top hat, carry an umbrella, and sing "When You Wish upon a Star." He's big and green and has a serious grasshopper-like face. And he can fly. He resembles a Tettigonia viridissima (Great Green Bush-Cricket).

*d Dark miracle of chance (i.e., an interesting coincidence): Wolfe's 1923 play, Welcome to Our City, which revolves around race relations in the South--and whose original title will not be repeated here--was performed in the Agassiz Theatre in Radcliffe's Agassiz House, named for Elizabeth Cary Agassiz, second wife of Professor Louis Agassiz.
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Author:Bailey, J. Todd; Strange, David
Publication:Thomas Wolfe Review
Date:Jan 1, 2014
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