In critical orbs Thomas Wolfe's literary fate would seem to be settled; of all his works (four huge novels and three volumes of shorter pieces), only Look Homeward, Angel has escaped interment in the dust of artistic failure. And yet this enigmatic author is not so easily dismissed. Is he the last of the American ""primitives"", a Olympian like Whitman, a New World Homer? Or are his gargantuan streams of emotion and search for himself and life's innards merely the rumblings of a potential literary adept who never learned the virtues of self-control, temperance, or objectivity? Probably he was a little of both; perhaps he was neither--but just a man obsessed with total self-expression. On that premise this literary biography intends to find ""why Wolfe wrote the kind of books he did"", and proceeds to chronicle the intellectual background, the creative struggles and the finished products of Wolfe's nine productive years. Unfortunately, only a tepid, over-long anatomy of creation emerges from the mass of carefully researched literary and biographical sources. As biography it is a boring repetition of better works (Elizabeth Nowell's biography); as literary criticism it is an unenlightening series of plot summaries and revisions thereof. The facts are there, but the enigma remains without a definitive interpretation. Only for the most.