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Look Homeward, Angel

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

Thomas Wolfe's Master Work

Look Homeward, Angel is Thomas Wolfe's masterwork, the novel that made his reputation. Born in Asheville, NC, in 1900, he was educated at the University of North Carolina and at Harvard. He spent his time teaching and traveling, building his reputation as one of Ameri...
Look Homeward, Angel is Thomas Wolfe's masterwork, the novel that made his reputation. Born in Asheville, NC, in 1900, he was educated at the University of North Carolina and at Harvard. He spent his time teaching and traveling, building his reputation as one of America's master novelists. Wolfe died in 1938.

The novel tells the life of the Gant family in a small mountain town in North Carolina. It is widely acknowledged that the town is Asheville, NC and that the book is a thinly disguised account of Wolfe's own life there.

The Gant family was made of Oliver and Eliza Gant and their children, Steve, Luke, the twins Ben and Grover, the girls Daisy and Helen, and the baby, Eugene. Eugene is the individual whose life most closely mimics Wolfe's own. The family is portrayed for the twenty years of Eugene's childhood and early manhood, as he grows up and learns that he must move on to achieve what he wants from life.

The daily lives of the Gant family are richly portrayed, each detail building upon the next to demonstrate daily life in the mountain region of North Carolina from 1900 to 1920. Oliver is a stone mason, Eliza becomes the owner of a boardinghouse. They both are so consumed with the thought of money and what it takes to make a living that they neglected the emotional lives of their children. The children are left to provide emotional support for each other, to force their way through life trying, sometimes succeeding and sometimes failing to achieve their goals.

Education was a great good, although expensive and those who had the opportunity to get an education were reminded daily of their great fortune. Wolfe details the daily working life of laborers, of those revered in small towns such as lawyers, doctors and politicians. He covers the relationships between men and women, and those between the races. The first Great War and the iinfluenza epidemic are covered. The United States was changing and the Gant family is a representation of how the country changed over this time period.

This book is recommended for readers interested in knowing how daily life was in western North Carolina during the early years of the 19th century as the population moved from a rural to a city focus. It is intricately detailed and moves the reader through the daily life of this family and the constant questions of why we are here and what we are to do with our lives.

posted by sandiek on September 4, 2012

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Most Helpful Critical Review

1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

A few good lines...

Wolfe was gifted in prose, modeled his writing after great authors of his time, his prose apparently a priority over literary genius, which we think of as a gift of words exercised in the service of something huge, like compassion, truth, beauty or human potential¿somet...
Wolfe was gifted in prose, modeled his writing after great authors of his time, his prose apparently a priority over literary genius, which we think of as a gift of words exercised in the service of something huge, like compassion, truth, beauty or human potential¿something that uplifts or encourages, something larger than one¿s self. Except for the racism, which the author was ignorant of¿and we must keep in mind this was written about three quarters of a century ago¿this is an accomplished novel for its time. Many authors use the novel format to lament the cruel injustices that happened to them. His father, Oliver had just met his future wife¿s family. ¿And as they sat there in the hot little room with its warm odor of mellowing apples, the vast winds howled down from the hills, there was a roaring in the pines, remote and demented, the bare boughs clashed. And as they peeled, or pared, or whittled, their talk slid from its rude jocularity to death and burial: they drawled monotonously, with evil hunger, their gossip of destiny, and of men but newly lain in the earth.¿ This is American realism as it came to prominence between the World Wars, a movement that attempted to shake loose from the tradition. Look Homeward, Angel concerns the history of Eugene Gant, actually Wolfe himself, from a few years before his birth in North Carolina to his departure for graduate school at Harvard University. Learning to deal with an alcoholic father and warped mother, and older siblings, he explores the town from its wealthiest mansions to it most degraded poverty and racism, shows promise in school, reads incessantly and plots himself the drama king that is his life. He falls in love, attends college, and after struggling finds a place of prominence for himself there. Eugene's melodramatic account of his love for a boarder in his mother's hotel takes on Shakespearian quality. He comes home, loses a favorite brother to tuberculosis and discovers the comforts of alcohol himself. He confronts his family's collective idiosyncrasies and leaves heading North, harboring the conviction that no one has ever suffered like this before. Maybe he realized that his experiences are universal, but he has the rare ability to dramatize the story. ¿¿But , amid the fumbling march of races to extinction, the giant rhythms of the earth remained. The seasons passed in their majestic processionals, and germinal Spring returned forever on the land¿new crops, new men, new harvests, and new gods.¿ His descriptions are vivid and his sensuality overwhelming. This is the effect of his prose. Trish New, author of The Thrill of Hope, South State Street Journal, and Memory Flatlined.

posted by Anonymous on October 27, 2007

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  • Posted September 4, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Thomas Wolfe's Master Work

    Look Homeward, Angel is Thomas Wolfe's masterwork, the novel that made his reputation. Born in Asheville, NC, in 1900, he was educated at the University of North Carolina and at Harvard. He spent his time teaching and traveling, building his reputation as one of America's master novelists. Wolfe died in 1938.

    The novel tells the life of the Gant family in a small mountain town in North Carolina. It is widely acknowledged that the town is Asheville, NC and that the book is a thinly disguised account of Wolfe's own life there.

    The Gant family was made of Oliver and Eliza Gant and their children, Steve, Luke, the twins Ben and Grover, the girls Daisy and Helen, and the baby, Eugene. Eugene is the individual whose life most closely mimics Wolfe's own. The family is portrayed for the twenty years of Eugene's childhood and early manhood, as he grows up and learns that he must move on to achieve what he wants from life.

    The daily lives of the Gant family are richly portrayed, each detail building upon the next to demonstrate daily life in the mountain region of North Carolina from 1900 to 1920. Oliver is a stone mason, Eliza becomes the owner of a boardinghouse. They both are so consumed with the thought of money and what it takes to make a living that they neglected the emotional lives of their children. The children are left to provide emotional support for each other, to force their way through life trying, sometimes succeeding and sometimes failing to achieve their goals.

    Education was a great good, although expensive and those who had the opportunity to get an education were reminded daily of their great fortune. Wolfe details the daily working life of laborers, of those revered in small towns such as lawyers, doctors and politicians. He covers the relationships between men and women, and those between the races. The first Great War and the iinfluenza epidemic are covered. The United States was changing and the Gant family is a representation of how the country changed over this time period.

    This book is recommended for readers interested in knowing how daily life was in western North Carolina during the early years of the 19th century as the population moved from a rural to a city focus. It is intricately detailed and moves the reader through the daily life of this family and the constant questions of why we are here and what we are to do with our lives.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2007

    Prose as Poetry

    Read the book just to appreciate beautiful, evocative prose. The wonderful images he could conjure have lived with me for many years.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 14, 2000

    The Trouble With Tom Wolfe

    I've read passages in LHA four and five times the way a glutton can't stop gorging on ice cream -- headache be damned. Wolfe is that good. BAD NEWS: Wolfe didn't blaze a path for us, the readers, through his dense jungle of some of the most convoluted, yet funniest, most luxurious 19th Century prose ever written. So, you stand forewarned, you're going to have to pick and choose your own way. Take it slow. WARNING: LHA is NOT for readers and other mountain grills under the age of 50 for whom the alexin of their entertainment is a digital kalidiscope of pulsating video images backed by a cacophony of metal and strings. Nevertheless, young readers, try LHA -- Wolfe wrote it for you. Young Gene is all of you coming-of-age types out there. MORE TROUBLE: This is Wolfe's first book, and it's loaded with 200+ thinly disguised denizens of Asheville, NC, many of whose children and grandchildren still grumble and cuss about Wolfe's evil portrayal of their kinfolk in LHA. FINALLY THIS: Wolfe applauded Jesse Owens at the 1936 Olympics loudly enough to irritate Hitler; Wolfe was bothered by the treatment of Jews in Europe. During the few years prior to his death at age 38 in 1938, Wolfe was gaining a social conscience. Yet, unmistakeably, many of the 522 pages of LHA stink of antisemitism and racism. Wolfe was politically correct for his times, as a Harvard-educated, Scribner-published author of the 1920s-1930s, but readers today will have to drill down deep to rationalize some of the more visceral passages drawn by Wolfe of 'Niggertown' or 'Pigtail Alley.' ENJOY

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 6, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    A terrific read!

    A wonderful surprise. I picked this off the store shelf with no prior knowledge of the author or of the title. Thomas Wolf convincingly captured
    the daily lives of an early twentieth family with a delightful sense of poetic imagination. His evocation of time and place is a joy to read. Although the story would lag a bit from time to time, the reader is eager to return to the characters and anticipate resolutions to their dilemmas. The lives of the Gants resonated with me long after I finished the novel. Wolfe is a solid, careful writer with a sense of intriguing idealistic realism.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 27, 2007

    A few good lines...

    Wolfe was gifted in prose, modeled his writing after great authors of his time, his prose apparently a priority over literary genius, which we think of as a gift of words exercised in the service of something huge, like compassion, truth, beauty or human potential¿something that uplifts or encourages, something larger than one¿s self. Except for the racism, which the author was ignorant of¿and we must keep in mind this was written about three quarters of a century ago¿this is an accomplished novel for its time. Many authors use the novel format to lament the cruel injustices that happened to them. His father, Oliver had just met his future wife¿s family. ¿And as they sat there in the hot little room with its warm odor of mellowing apples, the vast winds howled down from the hills, there was a roaring in the pines, remote and demented, the bare boughs clashed. And as they peeled, or pared, or whittled, their talk slid from its rude jocularity to death and burial: they drawled monotonously, with evil hunger, their gossip of destiny, and of men but newly lain in the earth.¿ This is American realism as it came to prominence between the World Wars, a movement that attempted to shake loose from the tradition. Look Homeward, Angel concerns the history of Eugene Gant, actually Wolfe himself, from a few years before his birth in North Carolina to his departure for graduate school at Harvard University. Learning to deal with an alcoholic father and warped mother, and older siblings, he explores the town from its wealthiest mansions to it most degraded poverty and racism, shows promise in school, reads incessantly and plots himself the drama king that is his life. He falls in love, attends college, and after struggling finds a place of prominence for himself there. Eugene's melodramatic account of his love for a boarder in his mother's hotel takes on Shakespearian quality. He comes home, loses a favorite brother to tuberculosis and discovers the comforts of alcohol himself. He confronts his family's collective idiosyncrasies and leaves heading North, harboring the conviction that no one has ever suffered like this before. Maybe he realized that his experiences are universal, but he has the rare ability to dramatize the story. ¿¿But , amid the fumbling march of races to extinction, the giant rhythms of the earth remained. The seasons passed in their majestic processionals, and germinal Spring returned forever on the land¿new crops, new men, new harvests, and new gods.¿ His descriptions are vivid and his sensuality overwhelming. This is the effect of his prose. Trish New, author of The Thrill of Hope, South State Street Journal, and Memory Flatlined.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 1, 2005

    The best!!

    When i first read this book i thought it was boring. It doesn't start to get interesting until part 3. However i recommend this book because the language is absolutely beautiful and because everyone can relate to it. This book has a very deep meaning. But be warned the beauty of this book just might make u cry like me!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 25, 2013

    Great book

    Great book

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 22, 2012

    Bored

    This book would've been really good had the unnecessary parts been cut out....like about 200 pages. The author would go on and on about insignificant details. Found the relative parts of the book interesting though.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 23, 2009

    Why exactly is this "the great American novel"?

    I really wanted to love this book. I am from NC and understand and appreciate the conflict of having ideas bigger than the place one lives. I love his use of language. But it really lacks focus and true meaning. It was quite difficult to get past the baseness of his character. The sexism and racism that he unapologetically indulges himself in with no redemption.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 7, 2004

    Laborious, Circumlocuitous, but mostly worth it

    At its worst, Wolfe's prose evokes all the gusto of watching an old man picking nails out a wall. At its best, it inspires moments of pathos and joy unparalleled, an insatiable wanderlust ad infinitum, and the detached, bittersweet feeling of being at odds with everything and everyone, most of all yourself. Did it require all these pages? Probably not- but such was the man's style. Read it for the wonderful moments caught between lulls.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2001

    For us poor lost souls..

    I recommend Look Homeward, Angel to anyone searching for his or her identity. Therefore, I recommend it to everyone since we should all search for understanding ourselves forever and ever. We can all appreciate parts of this book. High school-aged students might be able to handle it if they are pensive readers¿ If you grow weary from heavily worded literature, this book may not keep your interest all the time. At times, I felt like I was forcing myself to tolerate the repetition of Wolfe¿s seemingly favorite word choices¿`loamy,¿ `spermy,¿ `inchoate,¿ to name a few. Also, the tone of the book is a bit overly dramatic and heavy, like an unnecessarily emotional woman; you may feel like plugging your ears. Otherwise, this book invokes the remarkable and unsettling sensation of never quite understanding one¿s place in this world¿feeling restless and apart from it all. Without a doubt, I know that not everything in this book reached me¿but I know it¿s there, and that¿s why I will read it again and hopefully appreciate it more someday. `O lost!¿ for now, perhaps.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 9, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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    Posted January 23, 2012

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    Posted July 5, 2011

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    Posted January 29, 2011

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    Posted June 20, 2011

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    Posted June 19, 2010

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    Posted May 16, 2010

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    Posted May 20, 2011

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    Posted November 5, 2008

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