Tuesday, June 27, 2017

A Breach in the Wall: Thomas Wolfe

A Review of: Look Homeward by David Herbert Donald, Little, Brown, 1987.


When David Herbert Donald recalls his youthful reaction to Look Homeward, Angel, he describes a magic that many of us felt upon encountering Thomas Wolfe as adolescents: “I was convinced-without any just cause-that I too was misunderstood by my family and unappreciated in my community, and, like Eugene, I enjoyed writhing in romantic agony.” Prof. Donald’s subsequent disenchantment in the 1950s reflects not only an era that had grown tired of Wolfe’s “gigantism, his rhetorical extravagance, and his lack of form,” but might also call to mind our own adult reassessment of Wolfe’s work. Nevertheless, two decades later, after reading again Wolfe’s novels and stories, Dr. Donald comes full circle as he concludes that “Wolfe deserves to rank among the very great American authors”—an assertion that was reinforced for him during his following six-year study that included all of Wolfe’s papers. With this conviction, the biographer states that the purpose of his book is to tell the story of Wolfe’s life more completely than has been done heretofore, to present Wolfe in a historical literary context, and, most importantly, to show Wolfe’s “evolution as a writer.” Thus, Look Homeward is not simply a homage to a boyhood idol, but an attempt to clarify Wolfe’s literary merit and defend his right to rank as an equal among Faulkner, Hemingway, and Fitzgerald.

No comments:

Post a Comment