El's Reviews > Look Homeward Angel

Look Homeward Angel by Thomas Wolfe
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May 18, 2009

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bookshelves: 1001-books-list, 20th-centurylit-early
Read in May, 2009

Thomas Wolfe and Tom Wolfe are not the same person. The former died in 1938. The latter is still alive. There sometimes is confusion.

Thomas Wolfe wrote Look Homeward, Angel when he was rather young, and it's almost hard to believe once you trample your way through this lofty tome. It's a highly fictionalized account of Wolfe's own life, told through the character of Eugene Gant from his birth up until just shy of his twentieth year. The family dynamic is surely a complicated one, with an intensly overbearing father (an alcoholic to boot) and several young Gants with equal love/hate relationships with both the father and mother. As I said, it's complicated.

I enjoy coming-of-age stories as much as the next kid, but what Wolfe does here is something even more. It's a huge book, not to be read lightly. And for such a young writer I'm both impressed and annoyed by the way Wolfe wrote the story. I now have a list of vocabulary words I need to look up, which is really sort of unnecessary and very self-indulgent.

In any case, I feel like I've battled some sort of demon by finally managing to get through this, and I feel better to have kept my promise to Wolfe's grave in North Carolina (made several years ago) that I would eventually read this doorstop of a book. It's worth a read, if time and patience are on your side, if for no other reason than it is likely the first time "poon tang" made it into print. I could be wrong about that, but I've never come across it before this book, published in 1929. Good job, Mr. Wolfe.
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