Look Homeward, Mei Flower

I had occasion, on my recent vacation, to visit Thomas Wolfe's childhood home. I really liked the tour of this home, and I'll tell you that the major reason was that there was an ACTUAL HUMAN tour guide instead of a headset and mp3 player. I like it when I can ask questions, even if those questions sound stupid. (All time favorite question: Is this house haunted?)

It's said that Look Homeward, Angel is largely autobiographical and that Wolfe did not try very hard to disguise the characters in his novel. After it was published, the people in his hometown were very angry with him, so much so that Wolfe stayed away from home for about ten years.

I haven't read Look Homeward, Angel; indeed, I haven't read anything of Thomas Wolfe's, although given my current Classics Quest, I should add him to my list. Also adding: You Can't Go Home Again, which is about this guy who writes a book and all the people in his hometown get mad about it, so the author is very uncomfortable and doesn't know what to do.

I have decided that if I ever write a novel, I am totally going to use the Thomas Wolfe Model. I have already named the main character: May Bloom. She has a sister named June Pootington. She should live in a town called Tandemville and be a preacher.

That is a lot of creating to do in four seconds; I have to lie down now.


Anonymous said...

Could I make tongue say more than tongue could utter! Could I make brain grasp more than brain could think! Could I weave into immortal denseness some small brede of words, pluck out of sunken depths the roots of living, some hundred thousand magic words that were as great as all my hunger, and hurl the sum of all my living out upon three hundred pages--then death could take my life, for I had lived it ere he took it: I had slain hunger, beaten death! --T. Wolfe

Mei said...

I guess now I can say I've read something of Thomas Wolfe's. So ... uh ... thanks!

Anonymous said...

Always eager to turn someone on to the lyrical prose of Wolfe! Here is Look Homeward Angel compliments of Gutenberg: (although so much better to actually hold it in your hands)

This summary from B&N is probably good as any: (The time period is 1929, North Carolina.)

"Look Homeward, Angel is the coming-of-age story of Eugene Gant, whose restlessness and yearning to experience life to the fullest take him from his rural home in North Carolina to Harvard. Through his rich, ornate prose and meticulous attention to detail, Wolfe evokes the peculiarities of small-town life and the pain and upheaval of leaving home. Heavily autobiographical, Look Homeward, Angel is Wolfe's most turbulent and passionate work, and a brilliant novel of lasting impact."

Don't let the weight of the language in the beginning of the novel deter you. Wolfe's passion is to create a work in which all of life experiances are brought into being. Because of this, his original manuscript was very immense. Thankfully, it was the careful and wonderful editing of Maxwell Perkins (editor for Fitsgerald, Hemingway, Rawlings, etc) that brought Wolfe to fame and (in significant part) made him a great writer.

I like Wolfe because his attention to detail is just amazing. Completely opposite of Hemingway. His general theme is about how we come into the world alone and leave the world alone -always searching for the sense of belonging and true identity.

I could go on.....

- Steve
In the shadow of the Rocky Mountains

Mei said...

I am going to see if our school library has the book; they should, don't you think?

I wasn't interested in reading any of Wolfe's books until I toured his house. It was actually the boardinghouse his mom ran; it was the basis for Dixieland in LHA. And frankly, I love that he used people he knew as characters and didn't bother to disguise them very well. That is such a gutsy move!

The tour guide at the house said that some people think that if he'd lived longer, he would have been one of the greatest American writers, or at least recognized as such.

Anonymous said...

There is a used book store near work (Denver Book Mall) that has a 1929 facimile edition of LHA for only $10 if your interested. I have one which I paid about $25 on ebay.

I understand the o'l Dixieland home burned badly a few years ago from arson. Here is a really good photo which looks to be current on Flickr:
Someday, I plan to get there (and other parts of the east -having never been much east of the Mississippi River.

- Steve

Mei said...

Thanks for the offer, Steve, but I found it in the school library. I am going to try to talk my book group into reading it, though.


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