Look Homeward: A Life of Thomas Wolfe

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Harvard University Press, 2002 - Literary Criticism - 579 pages
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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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Look homeward: a life of Thomas Wolfe

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Wolfe's editor, Maxwell Perkins, argued that no writer was ever less in need of a biographer, so rich and candid was the autobiographical content of his fiction. Donald is the third biographer in 25 ... Read full review

Contents

A Secret Life
3
The Magical Campus
32
By God I Have Genius
65
I Shall Conquer the World
103
I Must Spin Out My Entrails
141
Like Some Blind Thing upon the Floor of the Sea
173
A Miracle of Good Luck
197
Penance More
233
The Famous American Novelist
312
Almost Every Kind of Worry
346
Unmistakable and Most Grievous Severance
384
A New World Is Before Me Now
422
The Posthumous Novels of Thomas Wolfe
464
Acknowledgments
485
Sources Abbreviations and Notes
493
Index
563

A Miserable Monstrous Misbegotten Life
272

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About the author (2002)

Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer and historian David Herbert Donald was born October 1, 1920 in Goodman, Miss. He married Aida DiPace in 1955, they had one child, Bruce Randall. He received an A.B. in 1941 from Millsaps College; an A.M. in 1942, and a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois in 1946. Donald has been an associate professor of history at Smith College and a professor of history at Columbia University; Princeton University and Johns Hopkins University. He was also Harry C. Warren Professor of American History, chair of the graduate program in American civilization, and professor emeritus at Harvard University. Much of Donald's work involves exploring and interpreting the American Civil War and its central figure, Abraham Lincoln. Some recent works includes Look Homeward: A Life of Thomas Wolfe, Lincoln, and Charles Sumner and the Coming of the Civil War, 1996. He received Pulitzer Prizes in biography for both Charles Sumner and Look Homeward.

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