Wolfe, Thomas Clayton
Esther Jackof his novels), a noted theatrical designer, who was a major influence in his adult life.
In 1929, under the rigorous editorial guidance of Maxwell Perkins, he published his first novel, Look Homeward, Angel. After the appearance of its sequel, Of Time and the River (1935), he broke with Perkins and signed a contract with Harper & Brothers, with Edward Aswell as his editor. After Wolfe died at 38 from complications following pneumonia, Aswell arranged from the material left at Wolfe's death two novels— The Web and the Rock (1939) and You Can't Go Home Again (1940)—and a volume of stories and fragments, The Hills Beyond (1941). Wolfe's other publications include From Death to Morning (1935), a collection of short stories; and The Story of a Novel (1936), a record of how he wrote his second book.
Wolfe's works compose a picture, left somewhat incomplete by his premature death. They describe the life of a youth from the rural South through his education to his career in New York City as a teacher and writer. Wolfe's major theme was almost always himself—his own inner and outer existence—his gropings, his pain, his self-discovery, and his endless search for an enduring faith. He was obsessed by memory, time, and location, and his novels convey a brilliant sense of place. His writing is characterized by a lyrical and dramatic intensity, by the weaving and reweaving of a web of sensuous images, and by rhapsodic incantations.
See his letters, ed. by E. Nowell (1956); his letters to A. Bernstein, ed. by S. Stutman (1983); To Loot My Life Clean: The Thomas Wolfe–Maxwell Perkins Correspondence (2000), ed. by M. J. Bruccoli and P. Bucker; O Lost: A Story of the Buried Life (2000), a restored version of Look Homeward Angel, ed. by A. and M. J. Bruccoli; biographies by A. Turnbull (1967), N. F. Austin (1968), and D. H. Donald (1987); studies by R. S. Kennedy (1962), L. Field (1988), and J. L. Idol, Jr. (1987).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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