Wolfe in periodical print and online.
"The Last Epic Novelist" is Tom Junod's review of Mark Helprin's In Sunlight and in Shadow and Martin Amis's Lionel Asbo for Esquire's October 2012 issue (and available at no charge on the Esquire Web site). After observing that Amis has moved to Brooklyn, Junod writes:
And speaking of Brooklyn, In Sunlight and in Shadow has the feeling and sweep of Thomas Wolfe, he who would walk across the bridge in the evening to drink in Manhattan, trilling to passersby that he had written 10,000 words that day, by hand while standing using the top of his icebox as a desk. Helprin has written another expansive novel, as if no one has yet alerted him that the novel is dead. Here it is, a poetic and likely enduring rendering of New York after the Second World War, a love story that pines for love but even more fervently for an industrious and ascendant America that is no more and maybe never was. A novel in which people fall in love in an instant, a novel that inserts phrases like "paralytic beauty" into the dialogue of young men. Helprin spins a world whole and entire, and you can smell the air and see the quality of light and look at women with powerful eyes so intimately it's uncomfortable. If Wolfe had lived to see the war and the country that emerged from it, he might have written something just like this. But Wolfe's Brooklyn doesn't much exist anymore, and though a sort of literature thrives there now, it is (to grossly generalize) smaller than ever, diffident, clever, and ironic. Solipsistic.
We don't know if Junod considers it diffident, clever, ironic, and solipsistic, but we like the title of one popular New York Web site: Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn. The site's "About" page notes that the "Thomas Wolfe story 'Only the Dead Know Brooklyn' inspired the blog's name." The page also provides a link to Wolfe's story on the site of an online journal, the Southern Cross Review. Other than missing one sentence from paragraph 7, the entire story is there.
In a November 2012 essay in Commentary on Tom Wolfe and his new novel, Back to Blood (Little, Brown, 2012), Andrew Ferguson opens with a lamentation on what he perceives as Thomas Wolfe's disappearance from the "pantheon." He first notes that when Tom Wolfe was a reporter in the 1960s, one of his colleagues was Charles Portis (author of Norwood and True Grit). Ferguson quotes Portis as saying in a recent interview that Tom Wolfe had been "polite enough not to roll his eyes when I asked him if he was related to Thomas Wolfe. It must have been a tiresome question for him." Ferguson then writes:
Reading this, I thought suddenly: "Thomas Wolfe! Whatever happened to him?" Though young in spirit, I am old enough to remember when Thomas Wolfe seemed secure in the pantheon of 20th-century American writers, the equal, nearly, of Faulkner and Fitzgerald and Hemingway. He is gone from the pantheon today, and I doubt that Tom Wolfe gets asked about his kinship to Thomas Wolfe anymore. The obscurity of Thomas is an odd but impressive testament to the magnitude of Tom's fame and, more important, the vastness of his literary achievement over a career spanning a half-century. (64)
One of the "175 Facts about NYU" (a series of photos and captions) on the New York University Web site, features Robert Disraeli's well-known image of Wolfe and his crate of manuscript. Unlike some print publications--including an awardwinning biography--which display this photo backward, the NYU site has it oriented correctly (Wolfe's salute to his critics is conveyed with his right hand; for more information, see "Why Wolfe Is a 'Crate' American Novelist" by Joseph Bentz in the 2006 TWR, pages 93-102). The caption on the NYU site reads:
Thomas Wolfe, a periodic instructor in the Department of English at New York University from 1924 to 1930, published his first and most famous novel, Look Homeward, Angel, in 1929. Wolfe taught an English class at the School of Architecture at the time that his book was being published. Wolfe liked the name of one of the students in the class, Zamschnick, so much that he named a character in the book after him.
The character appears in chapter 24 when George Graves and Eugene Gant witness Dr. Fairfax Grinder nearly run him over:
... he drove full tilt at the short plump figure of Joe Zamschnick, men's furnishings ("Just a Whisper Off The Square"). Joseph, two yards away from legal safety, hurled himself with a wild scream headlong at the curb. He arrived on hand* and knees, but under his own power. "K-hurses!" said Eugene. "Foiled again." 'Twas true! Dr. Fairfax Grinder's lean bristled upper lip drew back over his strong yellow teeth. He jammed on his brakes, and lifted his car round with a complete revolution of his long arms. Then he roared away through scattering traffic, in a greasy blue cloud of gasoline and burnt rubber. Joe Zamschnick frantically wiped his gleaming bald head with a silk handkerchief and called loudly on the public to bear witness. "What's the matter with him?" said George Graves, disappointed. "He usually goes up on the sidewalk after them if he can't get them on the street." (336-37)
* In O Lost and early printings of Look Homeward, Angel, this word is hand. In later editions, it was silently changed to hands.
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Title Annotation:||Notes; Thomas Wolfe|
|Publication:||Thomas Wolfe Review|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2012|
|Previous Article:||More book mentions.|
|Next Article:||Go home again, you cannot.|