You Can't Go Home Again Quotes

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You Can't Go Home Again You Can't Go Home Again by Thomas Wolfe
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You Can't Go Home Again Quotes (showing 1-30 of 36)
“Make your mistakes, take your chances, look silly, but keep on going. Don’t freeze up.”
Thomas Wolfe, You Can't Go Home Again
“I have to see a thing a thousand times before I see it once.”
Thomas Wolfe, You Can't Go Home Again
“Child, child, have patience and belief, for life is many days, and each present hour will pass away. Son, son, you have been mad and drunken, furious and wild, filled with hatred and despair, and all the dark confusions of the soul - but so have we. You found the earth too great for your one life, you found your brain and sinew smaller than the hunger and desire that fed on them - but it has been this way with all men. You have stumbled on in darkness, you have been pulled in opposite directions, you have faltered, you have missed the way, but, child, this is the chronicle of the earth. And now, because you have known madness and despair, and because you will grow desperate again before you come to evening, we who have stormed the ramparts of the furious earth and been hurled back, we who have been maddened by the unknowable and bitter mystery of love, we who have hungered after fame and savored all of life, the tumult, pain, and frenzy, and now sit quietly by our windows watching all that henceforth never more shall touch us - we call upon you to take heart, for we can swear to you that these things pass.”
Thomas Wolfe, You Can't Go Home Again
“Something has spoken to me in the night...and told me that I shall die, I know not where. Saying: "[Death is] to lose the earth you know for greater knowing; to lose the life you have, for greater life; to leave the friends you loved, for greater loving; to find a land more kind than home, more large than earth.”
Thomas Wolfe, You Can't Go Home Again
“From p. 40 of Signet Edition of Thomas Wolfe's _You Can't Go Home Again_ (1940):

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, the cricketing stitch of midday in hot meadows, the delicate web of children's voices in bright air--these things will never change.

The glitter of sunlight on roughened water, the glory of the stars, the innocence of morning, the smell of the sea in harbors, the feathery blur and smoky buddings of young boughs, and something there that comes and goes and never can be captured, the thorn of spring, the sharp and tongueless cry--these things will always be the same.

All things belonging to the earth will never change--the leaf, the blade, the flower, the wind that cries and sleeps and wakes again, the trees whose stiff arms clash and tremble in the dark, and the dust of 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--these things will always be the same, for they come up from the earth that never changes, they go back into the earth that lasts forever. Only the earth endures, but it endures forever.

The tarantula, the adder, and the asp will also never change. Pain and death will always be the same. But under the pavements trembling like a pulse, under the buildings trembling like a cry, under the waste of time, under the hoof of the beast above the broken bones of cities, there will be something growing like a flower, something bursting from the earth again, forever deathless, faithful, coming into life again like April.”
Thomas Wolfe, You Can't Go Home Again
“It seems to me that in the orbit of our world you are the North Pole, I the South--so much in balance, in agreement--and yet... the whole world lies between.”
Thomas Wolfe, You Can't Go Home Again
“He had learned some of the things that every man must find out for himself, and he had found out about them as one has to find out--through error and through trial, through fantasy and illusion, through falsehood and his own damn foolishness, through being mistaken and wrong and an idiot and egotistical and aspiring and hopeful and believing and confused. Each thing he learned was so simple and obvious, once he grasped it, that he wondered why he had not always known it. And what had he learned? A philosopher would not think it much, perhaps, and yet in a simple human way it was a good deal. Just by living, my making the thousand little daily choices that his whole complex of heredity, environment, and conscious thought, and deep emotion had driven him to make, and by taking the consequences, he had learned that he could not eat his cake and have it, too. He had learned that in spite of his strange body, so much off scale that it had often made him think himself a creature set apart, he was still the son and brother of all men living. He had learned that he could not devour the earth, that he must know and accept his limitations. He realized that much of his torment of the years past had been self-inflicted, and an inevitable part of growing up. And, most important of all for one who had taken so long to grow up, he thought he had learned not to be the slave of his emotions.”
Thomas Wolfe, You Can't Go Home Again
“Perhaps this is our strange and haunting paradox here in America -- that we are fixed and certain only when we are in movement. At any rate, that is how it seemed to young George Webber, who was never so assured of his purpose as when he was going somewhere on a train. And he never had the sense of home so much as when he felt that he was going there. It was only when he got there that his homelessness began.”
Thomas Wolfe, You Can't Go Home Again
“Peace fell upon her spirit. Strong comfort and assurance bathed her whole being. Life was so solid and splendid, and so good.”
Thomas Wolfe, You Can't Go Home Again
“[T]he essence of belief is doubt, the essence of reality is questioning. The essence of Time is Flow, not Fix. The essence of faith is the knowledge that all flows and that everything must change. The growing man is Man Alive, and his "philosophy" must grow, must flow, with him. . . . the man too fixed today, unfixed tomorrow - and his body of beliefs is nothing but a series of fixations.”
Thomas Wolfe, You Can't Go Home Again
“There came to him an image of man’s whole life upon the earth. It seemed to him that all man’s life was like a tiny spurt of flame that blazed out briefly in an illimitable and terrifying darkness, and that all man’s grandeur, tragic dignity, his heroic glory, came from the brevity and smallness of this flame. He knew his life was little and would be extinguished, and that only darkness was immense and everlasting. And he knew that he would die with defiance on his lips, and that the shout of his denial would ring with the last pulsing of his heart into the maw of all-engulfing night.”
Thomas Wolfe, You Can't Go Home Again
“But why had he always felt so strongly the magnetic pull of home, why had he thought so much about it and remembered it with such blazing accuracy, if it did not matter, and if this little town, and the immortal hills around it, was not the only home he had on earth? He did not know. All that he knew was that the years flow by like water, and that one day men come home again.”
Thomas Wolfe, You Can't Go Home Again
“Toil on, son, and do not lose heart or hope. Let nothing you dismay. You are not utterly forsaken. I, too, am here--here in the darkness waiting, here attentive, here approving of your labor and your dream.”
Thomas Wolfe, You Can't Go Home Again
“All things belonging to the earth will never change-the leaf, the blade, the flower, the wind that cries and sleeps and wakes again, the trees whose stiff arms clash and tremble in the dark, and the dust of 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-these things will always be the same, for they come up from the earth that never changes, they go back into the earth that lasts forever. Only the earth endures, but it endures forever.”
Thomas Wolfe, You Can't Go Home Again
“But it is not only at these outward forms that we must look to find the evidence of a nation's hurt. We must look as well at the heart of guilt that beats in each of us, for there the cause lies. We must look, and with our own eyes see, the central core of defeat and shame and failure which we have wrought in the lives of even the least of these, our brothers. And why must we look? Because we must probe to the bottom of our collective wound. As men, as Americans, we can no longer cringe away and lie. Are we not all warmed by the same sun, frozen by the same cold, shone on by the same lights of time and terror here in America? Yes, and if we do not look and see it, we shall all be damned together.”
Thomas Wolfe, You Can't Go Home Again
“The human mind is a fearful instrument of adaptation, and in nothing is this more clearly shown than in its mysterious powers of resilience, self-protection, and self-healing. Unless an event completely shatters the order of one's life, the mind, if it has youth and health and time enough, accepts the inevitable and gets itself ready for the next happening like a grimly dutiful American tourist who, on arriving at a new town, looks around him, takes his bearings, and says, "Well, where do I go from here?”
Thomas Wolfe, You Can't Go Home Again
“This is man: a writer of books, a putter-down of words, a painter of pictures, a maker of ten thousand philosophies. He grows passionate over ideas, he hurls scorn and mockery at another's work, he finds the one way, the true way, for himself, and calls all others false--yet in the billion books upon the shelves there is not one that can tell him how to draw a single fleeting breath in peace and comfort. He makes histories of the universe, he directs the destiny of the nations, but he does not know his own history, and he cannot direct his own destiny with dignity or wisdom for ten consecutive minutes.”
Thomas Wolfe, You Can't Go Home Again
“Something has spoken to me in the night...and told me that I shall die, I know not where. Saying: "[Death is] to lose the earth you know for greater knowing; to lose the life you have, for greater life; to leave the friends you loved, for greater loving; to find a land more kind than home, more large than earth.”
Thomas Wolfe, You Can't Go Home Again
“This is man, who, if he can remember ten golden moments of joy and happiness out of all his years, ten moments unmarked by care, unseamed by aches or itches, has power to lift himself with his expiring breath and say: "I have lived upon this earth and known glory!”
Thomas Wolfe, You Can't Go Home Again
“Well," he said, quite seriously, "it's this way: you work because you're afraid not to. You work becuase you have to drive yourself to such a fury to begin. That part's just plain hell! It's so hard to get started that once you do you're afraid of slipping back. You'd rather do anything than go through all that agony again--so you keep going--you keep going faster all the time--you keep going till you couldn't stop even if you wanted to. You forget to eat, to shave, to put on a clean shirt when you have one. You almost forget to sleep, and when you do try to you can't--because the avalanche has started, and it keeps going night and day. And people say: 'Why don't you stop sometime? Why don't you forget about it now and then? Why don't you take a few days off?' And you don't do it because you can't--you can't stop yourself--and even if you could you'd be afraid to because there'd be all that hell to go through getting started up again. Then people say you're a glutton for work, but it isn't so. It's laziness--just plain, damned, simple laziness, that's all...Napoleon--and--and Balzac--and Thomas Edison--these fellows who never sleep more than an hour or two at a time, and can keep going night and day--why that's not because they love to work! It's because they're really lazy--and afraid not to work because they know they're lazy! Why, hell yes!..I'll bet you anything you like if you could really find out what's going on in old Edison's mind, you'd find that he wished he could stay in bed every day until two o'clock in the afternoon! And then get up and scratch himself! And then lie around in the sun for awhile! And hang around with the boys down at the village store, talking about politics, and who's going to win the World Series next fall!”
Thomas Wolfe, You Can't Go Home Again
“Only the dead know Brooklyn.”
Thomas Wolfe, You Can't Go Home Again
“The lives of men who have to live in our great cities are often tragically lonely. In many more ways than one, these dwellers in the hive are modern counterparts of Tantalus. They are starving to death in the midst of abundance. The crystal stream flows near their lips but always falls away when they try to drink of it. The vine, rich-weighted with its golden fruit, bends down, comes near, but springs back when they reach out to touch it...In other times, when painters tried to paint a scene of awful desolation, they chose the desert or a heath of barren rocks, and there would try to picture man in his great loneliness--the prophet in the desert, Elijah being fed by ravens on the rocks. But for a modern painter, the most desolate scene would have to be a street in almost any one of our great cities on a Sunday afternoon.”
Thomas Wolfe, You Can't Go Home Again
“At these repeated signs of decadence in a society which had once been the object of his envy and his highest ambition, Webber's face had begun to take on a look of scorn...Yes, all these people looked at one another with untelling eyes. Their speech was casual, quick, and witty. But they did not say the things they knew. And they knew everything. They had seen everything. They had accepted everything. And they received every new intelligence now with a cynical and amused look in their untelling eyes. Nothing shocked them anymore. It was the way things were. It was what they had come to expect of life...He himself had not yet come to that, he did not want to come to it.”
Thomas Wolfe, You Can't Go Home Again
“For he had learned tonight that love was not enough. There had to be a higher devotion than all the devotions of this fond imprisonment. There had to be a larger world than this glittering fragment of a world with all its wealth and privilege. Throughout his whole youth and early manhood, this very world of beauty, ease, and luxury, of power, glory, and security, had seemed the ultimate end of human ambition, the furthermost limit to which the aspirations of any man could reach. But tonight, in a hundred separate moment of intense reality, it had revealed to him its very core. He had seen it naked, with its guards down. He had sensed how the hollow pyramid of a false social structure had been erected and sustained upon a base of common mankind's blood and sweat and agony...Privilege and truth could not lie down together. He thought of how a silver dollar, if held close enough to the eye, could blot out the sun itself. There were stronger, deeper tides and currents running in America than any which these glamorous lives tonight had ever plumbed or even dreamed of. Those were the depths he would like to sound.”
Thomas Wolfe, You Can't Go Home Again
“I had not yet learned that one cannot really be superior without humility and tolerance and human understanding. I did not yet know that in order to belong to a rare and higher breed one must first develop the true power and talent of selfless immolation.”
Thomas Wolfe, You Can't Go Home Again
“Telling the truth is a pretty hard thing. And in a young man's first attempt, with the distortions of his vanity, egotism, hot passion, and lacerated pride, it is almost impossible. "Home to Our Mountains" was marred by all these faults and imperfections...[Webber] did know that it was not altogether a true book. Still, there was truth in it.
...
[from Randy] There were places where [your book] rubbed salt in. In saying this, I'm not like those others you complain about: you know damn well I understand what you did and why you had to do it. But just the same, there were some things that you did not have to do -- and you'd have had a better book if you hadn't done them.”
Thomas Wolfe, You Can't Go Home Again
“This is Brooklyn--which means ten thousand streets and blocks like this one. Brooklyn, Admiral Drake, is the Standard Concentrated Chaos No. 1 of the Whole Universe. That is to say, it has no size, no shape, no heart, no joy, no hope, no aspiration, no center, no eyes, no soul, no purpose, no direction, and no anything--just Standard Concentrated Units everywhere--exploding in all directions for an unknown number of square miles like a completely triumphant Standard Concentrated Blot upon the Face of the Earth.”
Thomas Wolfe, You Can't Go Home Again
“The only shame George Webber felt was that at one time in his life, for however short a period, he broke bread and sat at the same table with any man when the living warmth of friendship was not there; or that he ever traded upon the toil of his brain and the blood of his heart to get the body of a scented whore that might have been better got in a brothel for some greasy coins. This was the only shame he felt. And this shame was so great in him that he wondered if all his life thereafter would be long enough to wash out of his brain and blood the last pollution of its loathsome taint.”
Thomas Wolfe, You Can't Go Home Again
“...So speaks Man-Creating. Then, instantly, it all changes, and from Man-Creating I become simply Man-Alive--a member of society, a friend and neighbor, a son and brother of the human race. And when I look at what I have done from this point of view, suddenly I feel lower than a dog. I see all the pain and anguish I have caused to people I know, and I wonder how I could have done it, and how there could possibly be any justification for it--yes, even if what I wrote had been as great as "Lear," as eloquent as "Hamlet"...For what integrity is there that is not tainted with human frailty? If only I could tell myself that every word and phrase and incident in the book had been created at the top of my bent and with the impartial judgment of unrancorous detachment! But I know it is not true. So many words came back to me, so many whip-lash phrases, that must have been written in a spirit that had nothing to do with art or my integrity. We are such stuff that dust is made of, and where we fail--we fail! Is there, then, no such thing as a pure spirit in creation?”
Thomas Wolfe, You Can't Go Home Again
“(Baseball’s a dull game, really; that’s the reason that it is so good. We do not love the game so much as we love the sprawl and drowse and shirt-sleeved apathy of it.)”
Thomas Wolfe, You Can't Go Home Again

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