The mountains were his masters. They rimmed in life. They were the cup of reality, beyond growth, beyond struggle and death. They were his absolute unity in the midst of eternal change.
There are those who rank Thomas Wolfe up there with Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner as one of the great American writers of the 1930s. He is also credited with influencing such writers as Ray Bradbury, Jack Kerouac, and Pat Conroy. So if his works are so great and influential, why have most people never heard of him? I decided to tackle his first novel, Look Homeward, Angel, and find out.
Based upon Wolfe's own childhood in Asheville, NC, Look Homeward, Angel tells the story of young Eugene Gant and his colorful, dysfunctional family. From his lazy alcoholic father to his grasping, self reliant mother, to his wild and varied older siblings, Eugene finds himself surrounded by people whom he just can't really seem to respond to. This painting of his hometown is stark, unsentimental, and at times almost vengeful.
My Review (Caution-Spoilers):
This one got away from me. Seriously. It was the first time in a long time that I actually dropped a book out of sheer boredom. I made it halfway through before I finally gave up on it.
The thing that really got me was the writing style. First off, there is very little actual plot to this story. It is mainly a recounting of Wolfe's childhood years, told in a stream of consciousness way. That is all well and good until you add in the fact that Wolfe also has a high romantic tone in his writing. Now I can take stream of consciousness, and I can take romantic writing, but I can't take them both together. Wolfe waxing poetic in a random flow of words in scenes that did nothing to move the story forward was just more than I could take.
I can see how this could be an influential novel if read at the right time and under the right conditions. Maybe someday I'll be able to pick it back up and finish this clunker...just not anytime soon.