Wednesday 9 March 2011

Wolfe, Thomas "Look Homeward, Angel"

Wolfe, Thomas "Look Homeward, Angel. A Story of the Buried Life." - 1929

This novel was mentioned several times in "The Lacuna" by Barbara Kingsolver which I really loved. So, I just had to read this one, as well.

I didn't expect it to be like Barbara Kingsolver's writing, however, I thought this might be another great American author. Thomas Wolfe has only written this one novel and I doubt I would have touched another one if he had.

The idea of the book was great, the writing style wasn't bad, either, but I think the novel would have gained so much if it had been written on 300 instead of 500 pages, a lot of unnecessary descriptions and thoughts that neither add to the story or are necessary for it nor was it so beautifully written that you read it just because it's almost poetry. Did I say I usually love long stories, prefer books to be longer than 500 pages over those that are around 200 only?

Not bad but definitely not one of my favourites, the title was a lot more promising.

From the back cover:

"A legendary author on par with William Faulkner and Flannery O'Connor, Thomas Wolfe published Look Homeward, Angel, his first novel, about a young man's burning desire to leave his small town and tumultuous family in search of a better life, in 1929. It gave the world proof of his genius and launched a powerful legacy.The novel follows the trajectory of Eugene Gant, a brilliant and restless young man whose wanderlust and passion shape his adolescent years in rural North Carolina. Wolfe said that Look Homeward, Angel is "a book made out of my life," and his largely autobiographical story about the quest for a greater intellectual life has resonated with and influenced generations of readers, including some of today's most important novelists. Rich with lyrical prose and vivid characterizations, this twentieth-century American classic will capture the hearts and imaginations of every reader."


  1. "Look homeward, Angel" is a semi-autobiographical book about the boy "Eugene" growing up in the small town "Altamont" in Tennessee around 1900 - the youngest boy of a big lower-middleclass family; he's bookish, but in the great American way eager to work for his own money; and only with luck (a fascinating woman teacher) he finds his path into the strange world of poetry. There's much more in it about life and death, and you will hardly get a better book to empathize with the historical American Nation.
    The book has often been called rhapsodical or dithyrambical (the German translation even exaggerated this style). But there are fifty pages which don't do anything more but to describe the beginnings of a typical day in Altamont just till Eugene wakes up - and I think that these pages belong to the best parts of world literature.

  2. Now I'm definitely biased about Wolfe: I read him at the impressionable age of 14 years, and I was the bookish youngest boy of a middleclass family in a small German town, so I was incited to make comparisons between Eugene and me.

    But there's something more in it which I have difficulties to express. The book evokes a certain view of the world which is typical for the great American authors in the early and mid-20th century, like Faulkner, Saroyan, Capote, Harper Lee, O'Neill or Wilder - that everyone's small life is part of the universe which gives it something like a deep and broad bass sound, melody, riff, swing, beat - I don't find the exact words how to term it.

    1. I understand the comparison to the boy, I often felt that when reading, I am the oldest of four children and the only girl from a working family, my parents never thought I would go to a higher education school because at the time girls just "didn't do that", so often I realte to those kidn of books well.

      I understand what you mean in your last paragraph also, I wish people would still believe that whatever they do has an impact on this world and that we all should try to improve this world. But those that shout loudest all shout "Me, Me, Me!" so one gets the impression that this world is getting more and more selfish. I hope you understand what I mean now.

      Thanks for your contribution, always great to talk about any book,