THE PARTY AT JACK'S by Thomas Wolfe


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 Thomas Wolfe's determined stab at a richly finished short novel on the order of Heart of Darkness and The Great Gatsby attempts a passionately deeper cut at American life than Fitzgerald's. Wolfe (1900-38), in fact, has James Joyce in mind and imitates many of the storytelling devices of Ulysses as he tells this story of a Park Avenue party being given by a Broadway stage designer, Esther Jack (Wolfe's mistress, Aline Bernstein), focusing as well on her stockbroker husband, Fritz Jack. Wolfe also makes the Jacks's Park Avenue building symbolic of the American economy and blue-collar class. Famed folk show up disguised by Wolfe, mobilist Alexander Calder being savaged as Piggy Logan, a boor who works a circus made of wire figures. More fiercely descriptive paint than plot, this novella--refined for seven years, beginning in 1930--gives us concentrated Wolfe. Bloody chunks of it appeared posthumously in Scribner's Monthly and You Can't Go Home Again, though over half has never before seen print. Aside from Tom Wolfe (the other one) and Norman Mailer, no stylist today takes as big a bite out of the American landscape. Penn State professor Stutman (English & American studies) also edited Wolfe's The Good Child's River (1992) and My Other Loneliness: Letters of Thomas Wolfe and Aline Bernstein (1983); coeditor Idol (English/Clemson Univ.) compiled A Thomas Wolfe Companion.

Pub Date: April 17th, 1995
ISBN: 0-8078-2206-X
Page count: 242pp
Publisher: Univ. of North Carolina
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1995


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