Look Homeward: A Life of Thomas Wolfe

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9780449902868: Look Homeward: A Life of Thomas Wolfe

Thomas Wolfe, one of the giants of twentieth-century American fiction, is also one of the most misunderstood of our major novelists. A man massive in his size, his passions, and his gifts, Wolfe has long been considered something of an unconscious genius, whose undisciplined flow of prose was shaped into novels by his editor, the celebrated Maxwell Perkins.

In this definitive and compelling biography, Pulitzer Prize–winning historian David Herbert Donald dismantles that myth and demonstrates that Wolfe was a boldly aware experimental artist who, like James Joyce, William Faulkner, and John Dos Passos, deliberately pushed at the boundaries of the modern novel. Donald takes a new measure of this complex, tormented man as he reveals Wolfe's difficult childhood, when he was buffeted between an alcoholic father and a resentful mother; his "magical" years at the University of North Carolina, where his writing talent first flourished; his rise to literary fame after repeated rejection; and the full story of Wolfe's passionate affair with Aline Bernstein, including their intimate letters.

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Review:

Thomas Wolfe was a writer who famously spewed out words upon the page in endless streams, attempting to achieve The Great American Novel by putting his own life on paper. He wrote four massive novels, combining passages of over-the-top bad writing with some of the most beautiful prose ever committed to paper. His editors Maxwell Perkins and Edward Aswell became almost as famous as Wolfe for their Herculean efforts in getting his titanic manuscripts into publishable form. Look Homeward, Angel (1929), Of Time and the River (1935), and his two posthumously published works, The Web and the Rock (1939) and You Can't Go Home Again (1940) are classics of American literature, though today entirely unfashionable. Harvard historian David Herbert Donald won the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for this appreciative biography of the genius of purple prose.

About the Author:

David Herbert Donald was Charles Warren Professor of American History and Professor of American Civilization at Harvard University.

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