THOMAS WOLFE INTERVIEWED, 1929-1938 by Aldo P. & Richard Walser--Eds. Magi

THOMAS WOLFE INTERVIEWED, 1929-1938

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A special little (129 pages) volume, of interest to a special and, obviously, limited audience. It consists of 24 long-buried newspaper interviews of the author plus one posthumous magazine article. The editors have prefaced each piece with a smattering of biographical material to orient the reader as to what Wolfe had been doing before the time of the interview. They also provide follow-up notes on Wolfe's reaction to the article and on the subsequent career of the interviewer. So here is Thomas Wolfe once again--all 6'6"" of him--pacing up and down, frequently stuttering at first, then pouring out words and more words. What impresses is the cadence and poetry of his speech and its similarity to the exhuberant, rolling language of Look Homeward, Angel and Of Time and the River. In one interview he talks of ""watching the country slip by"" through the windows of a railroad train: ""As I watched, I visualized what this west had been--and not a century ago--and what it is. I thought of the superb initiative, of the courage, almost out of human bounds, required to take over the desert and the mountains. I thought of the men and women who had pioneered. I thought of the initiative and faith necessary to build the railroads, of the epitome of comfort created for travelers like myself in these new trains and then I came to the conclusion that none of us, born and raised in America, has a right to keep aloof from what concerns its welfare."" His politeness, his willingness to give of his time to the reporter, no matter how tired or busy Wolfe may have been, shines through virtually every interview. He always praises the place he is visiting and the beauty of the surrounding countryside. He even manages a good word for Hitler's Germany (he was there for the 1936 Olympics). He tells a reporter from the Berliner Tageblatt, ""If there were no Germany, it would be necessary to invent one. It is a magical country. . ."" The articles are filled with memorable vignettes: his delight at spying Look Homeward, Angel prominently displayed in Scribners' window; the disorder of his various habitats; his humble and joyous return to his home town after seven years of exile. (The people of Ashville, North Carolina, had been furious at what they saw as a disparaging portrayal of the town and its citizens in Look Homeward, Angel.) Not likely to spark a broad renaissance of interest in this protean, prototypically American author, but it should provide some new material for academics to chew on and for Wolfe enthusiasts to enjoy.

Pub Date: Nov. 24th, 1985
ISBN: 0807127949
Publisher: Louisiana State Univ. Press