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You Can't Go Home Again

4.05  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,387 Ratings  ·  209 Reviews
George Webber has written a successful novel about his family and hometown. When he returns to that town he is shaken by the force of the outrage and hatred that greets him. Family and friends feel naked and exposed by the truths they have seen in his book, and their fury drives him from his home. He begins a search for his own identity that takes him to New York and a hec ...more
Paperback, 711 pages
Published August 5th 1998 by Harper Perennial (first published 1940)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Dec 18, 2007 Skip rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone
Written in 1934, nothing has changed. People still fall in love, get hurt, have dreams, kill, lie and cheat. There was a total lack of respect for the earth then as now. Overbuilding and greed were rampant then, no worse and not better than now. Greed drives need.

Still, a good story of hope, perseverance and victory of the spirit.
Mar 15, 2010 notgettingenough rated it liked it
Shelves: modern-lit
This is another thing about whether you can go home. When I was little my father disowned us from both sides of our family. Only very recently, a year or two ago did I start seeing my mother's two sisters. I've been invited to a birthday for one of them this weekend, at which I would see oodles of my mother's side of the family, really all there would be to see. Do I go? Every time I think about it, I can't help saying to myself You Can't Go Home, but maybe you can? Maybe? If you suddenly for th ...more
Sep 13, 2007 Cody rated it liked it
Shelves: modernism
At page 454, I am abandoning this text, at least for a while.

*You Can't Go Home Again* is such an influential work, especially within American literature, that I had to continually remind myself that what struck me as "old hat" or cliche, was, in all reality, fairly innovative; the passages that reminded me of Kerouac, were, in fact, the passages that inspired Kerouac. This work has some exceptionally beautiful and affecting passages--I'm thinking, most recently in my reading, of the suicide sc
Sep 04, 2008 Martin rated it it was amazing
Thomas Wolfe (NOT TOM WOLFE!) is from Asheville, NC. I was in Asheville when I bought this book, and it was later that day...still in Asheville...that I got appendicitis. So I have that association.

Anyway, I started reading this book while recovering and just now finished...that was around May 15th I guess, and its now September 4rd, so that's roughly 110 days...and the book is 704 pages so that's almost 7 pages a day. Hm.

My point is, this is a long, long book but I've never read so feverishly,
David Fleming
Jun 28, 2007 David Fleming rated it it was amazing
Shelves: topten
Faulkner called Wolfe the best of their generation, "the finest failure."

I admire most the scope of Wolfe's writing. It seems at times that he was trying to capture all of America in a single novel, and if he didn't quite make it he comes very, very close.

And he was, at his heart, hopeful: Wolfe believed in the possibility of religious transcendence and he believed in America, and the possibilities it had. Those twin optimisms, to me, lie at the heart of the very best moments of this novel.

Claire S
Mar 25, 2009 Claire S rated it really liked it
Recommended to Claire by: High school
I'd forgotten about this till it came up in the quiz.
My senior year of high school, I had some sort of comp lit class, and we had to do a major paper on one book, and I did it on this.
And my paper was all about the theme of interlocking webs of some sort. I think 3 layers of, um, webbing.. like himself; his community; and the country or something. I'll have to look it up again.
I really liked it, enjoyed the complexity, and felt a certain resonance because going home was exactly what I planned t
Joy H.
Oct 11, 2011 Joy H. marked it as read-partially
Shelves: read-a-while-ago
Re: _You Can't Go Home Again _ (1940) By Thomas Wolfe
(I read to page 195 but did not finish the book.)
Added 3/1/11.

This is very dense reading, but I was floored by its beauty. I copied the following quote by hand, before the days of computers:
"Some things will never change. Some things will always be the same. Lean down your ear upon the earth and listen.
"The voice of forest water in the night, a woman's laughter in the dark, the clean, hard rattle of raked gravel, t
Jan 01, 2015 Jon rated it it was amazing
The paperback version of this novel is 711 pages long. This novel is a saga about George Webber, a prototype for the author, Thomas Wolfe. The novel depicts events at least three levels: George Webber's struggle to write novels and gain acceptance by other novelists and publishers; America's transformation from the go-go 20's to economic ruin and depression in the 1930's; and how Webber seeks salvation by sailing to England and Germany in the mid 1930's, a few years before the start of World War ...more
Mar 05, 2008 Suzanne rated it liked it
Shelves: classic
The title is wonderful.
The prose is long and seems dated. This is a very slow read but does capture a period of turmoil in the 20th century. I read it for a book group years ago, and often cursed the member who suggested it. My recollection was that we had to skip a month and most members of the group didn't finish it.
Mar 02, 2014 Haris rated it it was ok
I don't get it.

Thomas Wolfe's "You Can't Go Home Again" (YCGHA) currently enjoys a 4.04/5 rating on Goodreads and hovers near a 4/5 in Amazon. I don't understand why. The book (which can be hardly called a novel) is a disjointed, meandering, verbose effort, full of self-importance and navel-gazing. Unless the vast majority of readers just really like lots of adjectives, my guess is that most people rate this book highly because it's a "classic" and giving it a high score means that you "get it"
Patrick Gibson
May 07, 2011 Patrick Gibson rated it really liked it
“Not a great novelist—but a great writer?” I’ll have to agree with that. I am re-reading both Wolfe masterpieces, since the first time I read them the words were wasted on my youth. Now I will let them be wasted on my middle age. Wolfe had courage, I’ll give him that—courage to attempt showing every ounce of his personal experience in the pure, naked, and sometimes brutal light of truth. This he did with a just hand toward both the extraordinary and the mundane alike. Extraordinary experiences, ...more
Nov 10, 2012 Michael rated it it was ok
The book has some beautiful moments, but to find them you have to wade through endless description of minutiae. Every scene is so dense with detail, that you begin to feel that his objective in writing this novel was to hone his ability to convey the aesthetics of a situation and the thought processes of his characters. He is eloquent and has a flawless eye, but in my view the description detracts from the story, which develops at an excruciating pace. If you are more oriented towards beautiful ...more
Kate Walker
Jul 14, 2008 Kate Walker rated it it was amazing
I was hooked from the first page and really savored the whole 700+ page experience. Wolfe is spookily insightful, cutting right to the quick of human nature, and our many pretentions. Wolfe describes so many different types of people and you recognize every one. The book has a very timeless quality to it. From overspeculation in the real estate market to the media's bizarre fixation with celebrities... this book could have been written yesterday, and yet it was written in the 1930's. Wolfe's pow ...more
Michael Holmes
Jun 10, 2014 Michael Holmes rated it it was amazing
It deserves the title "classic" in every sense of the word -- but be prepared.

At 700 plus pages, it's a hefty volume, so if you appreciate a story told in exacting detail, you're in for a great treat. If you want a more pithy story, get a comic book.

I noticed a pattern while reading the various reviews by their respective authors: if it didn't mesh with their favorite genres and writing styles, they simply didn't connect with this story. Not surprising.

In my own opinion, some of these critics
Apr 11, 2009 Ellen rated it it was amazing
You Can't Go Home Again is a product of Wolfe's second editor, Edward Aswell of Harper & Brothers. Wofle left him a manuscript that filled an eight-foot-high packing crate that "contained thirty-five notebooks and assorted outlines and summaries concerning Wolfe's future projects." Wolfe died months later, and "Aswell alone was left to sift through the sack of unfinished material, a project which took him three full years."
I read elsewhere that so many different people at Harper's worked on
This is a quiet 10 year epic odyssey, and you'll know that's true when I tell you that it essentially starts with Black Tuesday, 1929, and ends just before the start of WWII, 1939, with stops in North Carolina, Brooklyn, London, Paris and Berlin. The uni-directional quality struck me as pretty cool, by the end, (and which of course ties in to the title and its multiple meanings, including the fact of constant social change.) We also meet many characters and they don't necessarily make a repeat a ...more
David Lentz
Jun 20, 2011 David Lentz rated it it was amazing
"You Can't Go Home, Again" is really not so much a work of fiction as an autobiography in which the names of characters have been changed. Wolfe seemed unapologetic about the baldly autobiographical nature of his work. However, some may perceive his autobiography as evidence of a certain lack of creative reach and an aversion to creative risk-taking on his part. Wolfe's life was so deeply and richly lived in a relatively short period and so lyrically written that his autobiography reads as vibra ...more
Jan 11, 2010 Deborah rated it really liked it
There are few books I have ever read that have been more beautifully written than You Can't Go Home Again. The characters are full and richly drawn. The plot, when it moves, is an interesting one, and Wolfe's insight is profound and inspirational. The only thing that kept me from giving this book five stars is that it is so dense, so wordy, so incredibly overwritten that it is nearly impossible to finish. It being an autobiographical novel, I found it very interesting that the main character tal ...more
Jan 11, 2016 Emrys rated it it was amazing
This book is magnificent. The Bildungsroman as a genre so often disappoints (at least, I think so; e.g. Of Human Bondage), but Wolfe's mastery and incisively witty, yet profound, insight into American culture and adulthood is well worth the time it takes.
Aug 19, 2012 Paul rated it really liked it
I think every successful writer of fiction is allowed one exegesis of self-pity, and this is Wolfe's. Fortunately, since Wolfe is capable of unplugging his sizable head from his wide ass, he can craft a pretty compelling portrait of the Jazz Age deteriorating into the Great Depression here in the US, and he evokes pre-WWII Europe quite well. Considering that Wolfe died in 1938, his sojourn in Nazi Germany is shockingly poignant. The meaty travelogue, however, is sandwiched between thick slices o ...more
James Neve
Aug 16, 2015 James Neve rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this, but it is a pretty long, hard read. What I love about this Wolfe (NEVER to be confused with "tom wolfe," whom I will never read another word of) is that he narrates through the horrors of the 30's (and corresponding literary movements) and hints- or even promises- an ultimate triumph. Very, very similar to Faulkner's Nobel speech....but he never, ever sugar-coats the modern assessment of mankind. I had no idea what to expect here, having only read a few of his short stories. I gu ...more
Benjamin Harris
Oct 23, 2014 Benjamin Harris rated it it was amazing
What an incredible book. Wolfe is extraordinarily insightful and is a keen observer of human nature. He rambles quite a bit and goes off on all sorts of tangents, but the prose is so strong that in the end I didn't mind that so much. Probably some people would lose patience with that. From a lesser writer, I know I would have.

I actually bought this book some years ago and it had just been sitting on my bookshelf (this happens to me often because I often buy books faster than II can finish readin
Seth Kupchick
Mar 24, 2014 Seth Kupchick rated it it was amazing
"You Can't Go Home Again," was the first Thomas Wolfe book I read probably because I liked the title, or maybe it was the only one in the bookstore, but for whatever reason it was the one handed down to me, though Thomas Wolfe's novels often feel like one long book, though they do have different moods and feelings. I first read Wolfe because I knew he was a big influence on Jack Kerouac and I wanted to be a writer, inspired by the Beats in spirit, and thought I had to read a lot of good books be ...more
Dec 27, 2012 Rachelle rated it really liked it
I love the way books come to me sometimes - this one as a yellowed, tattered edition sold at a market stall for 1. I've wanted to read it for ages. The text is very dense but Wolfe's eye is keen, especially when it comes to observations about people, though I feel like his judgements can be a bit arrogant and unkind here and there. Still, I feel like this book merits recommended reading status, especially for a girl like me, who mislaid her ruby slippers somewhere along the road, sometime back. ...more
David Haws
Aug 27, 2015 David Haws rated it really liked it
Wolfe had a great intuition for the written word, like Kerouac a generation later, but (like Kerouac) he needs a little judicious editing to give his prose a sharper edge. For example, he has this great image for urban sprawl, “the vast, interminable ganglia of outer London.” But then two paragraphs later he uses the term again (twice, the third time in a slightly modified form). His narratives are thick, in a good sense, but the lyricism can become heavy-handed, especially when it lacks context ...more
Jun 15, 2014 Kitty rated it it was amazing
So beautifully written. Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:

"All things belonging to the earth will never change. . . the trees whose stiff arms clash and tremble in the dark, and the dustof lovers long since buried in the earth - all things proceeding from the earth to seasons, all things that lapse and change and come again upon the earth that never changes, they go back into the earth that lasts forever. Only the earth endures, but it endures forever."

". . . there will be somet
Sep 11, 2009 Alex rated it liked it
I'm not sure if I actually like this book or this author. It seems more like a collection of scenes and musings than a novel--if a novel is a thing that it supposed to have, you know, a beginning, middle and end with a plot to tie it together. Maybe the plot develops after the first 300 pages.
Aug 21, 2013 Rebecca marked it as to-read
My mom just revealed, upon my questioning, that this was her favorite book. In a household where books and storytelling have always been so important, I'm surprised I didn't know that before. Hope I find some time for this one soon.
Sep 21, 2014 Jill rated it it was ok
Wolfe was obviously talented and had a lot of philosophy he wants to share, but the book never really goes anywhere... Just jumps around from scene to scene where Wolfe can go for long talky stretches about how he feels about certain contemporary topics. Occasionally he fleshes out characters for dozens of pages, only to never revisit them (or, at times, not even mention them again). Clearly he wanted to distribute his thoughts amid a literary environment coated by a thin coat of fiction, but I ...more
Dec 30, 2014 Milli rated it really liked it
Shelves: literary-lushes, 2014
I LOVED the writing! But it was kind of hard to get through because it was so long. The writing was excellent!
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Thomas Clayton Wolfe (October 3, 1900 – September 15, 1938) was an American novelist of the early twentieth century.

Wolfe wrote four lengthy novels, plus many short stories, dramatic works and novellas. He is known for mixing highly original, poetic, rhapsodic, and impressionistic prose with autobiographical writing. His books, written and published from the 1920s to the 1940s, vividly reflect on
More about Thomas Wolfe...

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“Make your mistakes, take your chances, look silly, but keep on going. Don’t freeze up.” 2866 likes
“I have to see a thing a thousand times before I see it once.” 1352 likes
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