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Look Homeward, Angel: A Story of the Buried Life; With an Introduction by Maxwell E. Perkins


Look Homeward, Angel: A Story of the Buried Life; With an Introduction by Maxwell E. Perkins Cover


Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Look Homeward, Angel is an elaborate and moving

coming-of-age story about Eugene Gant, a restless and

energetic character whose passion to experience life takes him

from his small, rural hometown in North Carolina to

Harvard University and the city of Boston. The novel's

pattern is artfully simple — a small town, a large family,

high school and college — yet the characters are

monumental in their graphic individuality

and personality.

Through his rich, ornate prose, Wolfe evokes the

extraordinarily vivid family of the Gants, and with

equal detail, the remarkable peculiarities of small-town

life and the pain and upheaval of a boy who must leave

both. A classic work of American literature, Look

Homeward, Angel is a passionate, stirring, and

unforgettable novel.

About the Author

Thomas Wolfe

Thomas Wolfe was born in 1900 in Asheville, North

Carolina, a resort town in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

His father was a tombstone cutter from Pennsylvania, his

mother a native of the mountain area. Much like Eugene

Gant in Look Homeward, Angel, Wolfe spent his youth

going back and forth between 92 Woodfin Street, where

his father and his sister lived, and The Old Kentucky

Home, which was the Dixieland boarding house in Look

Homeward, Angel. In 1912, Wolfe became a student at

the North State School, a private school, and in 1916 he

entered the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

After rejecting the offers of various newspaper positions,

in 1920 Wolfe entered Harvard Graduate School, from

which he received his MA in English. He completed an

extra year at Harvard, studying playwriting, but he never

had any luck selling his plays in New York.

He became an instructor in English at New York University

in 1924, serving intermittently until 1930, writing and

traveling extensively in Europe and the Americas. In 1925,

while sailing for New York, he met a woman who was to

be his constant companion for the next five years, Mrs.

Aline Bernstein, who was married and some eighteen

years older than Wolfe. In 1927, Mrs. Bernstein persuaded

Wolfe to work solely on his novel, rather than to return to

his teaching job. She rented a garret for him over a tailor's

shop in a run-down building where he wrote his first

novel, Look Homeward, Angel. After several publishers

rejected it, it was finally accepted by Maxwell Perkins at

Scribner. In 1929 Look Homeward, Angel was published.

Much has been written about the fact that Thomas Wolfe's

Look Homeward, Angel is autobiographical, and its

publication met with violent reaction in Asheville. The

community was furious that its secrets had been laid

bare by one of its own sons. Only later was the literary

merit of the book appreciated.

In 1931, Wolfe moved to Brooklyn where he spent the

next four years living in poorly furnished apartments

with cigarette-burned tables, straight chairs, and

dry-goods boxes where he placed his completed pages.

He wrote the hard way — in fits and turns, without

chronology, moving from one unconnected episode to

another, often revising, often rewriting entirely.

His next book, Of Time and the River was published in 1935.

The book was a triumph, and in an effort to capitalize on

its popularity, Scribner rushed through a book of Wolfe's

short stories, From Death to Morning. Wolfe was now

widely known, and it was during this time that he "was

set upon by every kind of parasite," as he wrote, "every

kind of harpy, every kind of vulture, every kind of female

egoistthat had a string to pull." Though he wanted merely

to be left alone, a number of provoking incidents plagued

him: lawsuits, blackmail letters, and a grave quarrel with

Scribner. Eventually, his publishing relationship with

Scribner was severed when Perkins and Wolfe became

divided on ideological issues (the last four chapters of You

Can't Go Home Again), Perkins protesting when Wolfe

wished to replace his lyrical prose with political and

ethical arguments.

Wolfe began a publishing relationship with Harpers which

published The Web and the Rock in 1939 and his last novel,

You Can't Go Home Again, in 1940.

In early July of 1938, Wolfe, on a trip to British Columbia,

contracted pneumonia. When a fever persisted during

convalescence, the doctor ordered an X ray which revealed a

tubercular lesion on the upper lobe of his right lung. In

Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, an operation showed

that Wolfe's brain was infected by tubercular germs

released during the siege with pneumonia. Thomas Wolfe

died on September 15, 1938, eighteen days short of his

thirty-eighth birthday.

When Perkins learned of Wolfe's death, he thought of the

lines from William Shakespeare's King Lear:

He hates him

That would upon the rack of this tough world

Stretch him out longer.

"For," wrote Perkins, "he was on the rack almost always,

and almost always would have been, and for one reason.

He was wrestling as no artist in Europe would have to do,

with the material of literature — a great country not yet

revealed to its own people."


  • The Complete Short Stories of Thomas Wolfe

  • Of Time and the River

Product Details

Perkins, Maxwell E.
Perkins, Maxwell E.
Wolfe, Thomas
New York :
Novels and novellas
Mountain life
Autobiographical fiction
Boys -- North Carolina -- Fiction.
American fiction (fictional works by one auth
General Fiction
General Fiction
Edition Description:
Series Volume:
no. 404
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
8 x 5.25 in 15.456 oz

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Look Homeward, Angel: A Story of the Buried Life; With an Introduction by Maxwell E. Perkins Used Trade Paper
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