David Spencer's Reviews > Look Homeward, Angel

Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe
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Jun 04, 2014

it was amazing
bookshelves: classics
Read in August, 2009

Granted, I went into this book wanting to like it. I had heard good things from Kurt Vonnegut saying it changed his life when he read it around the age of graduation from college and from another writer who said it impacted him. But I believe Thomas Wolfe's first novel here is an exceptional work and one of the best coming-of-age stories for anyone that enjoys the Bildungsroman novels and is fairly literary.

I am not certain that someone who is not an English major or a lover of long and in-depth literature would enjoy this. I'm an English teacher and I naturally fell in love with at least 25 passages in this book. They just knocked me off my chair they were so powerful.

I would like to assert that this book is not as "flowery and lyrical and poetic" as many people seem to make it out to be. Granted, there are about a dozen paragraphs in the novel that contain refrains of "O Lost!" and the Preface is basically a prose poem, but once you get past all the initial stuff, it is a very lively and, at times, dialogue-driven book. Most people's reviews are so heavily concentrated on the first few pages...but this is a long book and has so much more to it than the beginning with "Which one of us has known our brother?" and so forth.

A lot of people also seem to say this book doesn't age well over time and re-reading it later in life doesn't work as well. I am only 22 right now, but again, the only examples I've seen given are from the preface and the first page of Chapter One. It is a lively book that is not rooted in symbolism or even much subtext, but just a close depiction of what life is, why it is lonely, and how different people make up for it.

If you are not hooked by the time Eugene Gant is born and the narrative shifts in tone and style and jumps of the page before page 100, then you probably shouldn't read the rest of the book. But odds are, you'll see why Thomas Wolfe was so striking to readers in the late 20s and 30s.
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07/07 marked as: read

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Clif I read the book at about 20 and it was completely lost on me. All I could remember when I saw it on the shelf recently was that it took place in the South. But I took it on again and now, at 63, I find it a compelling account of relationships and a literary masterpiece. Thinking back of myself at 20, I can easily understand how it went right by me, because the stifling life of the rural South in 1910 had no relevance to the youth revolution of 1970.


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