"The Complete Short Stories of Thomas Wolfe" stands as the most comprehensive edition of Thomas Wolfe's short fiction to date. Collected by Francis E. Skipp, these fifty-eight stories span the breadth of Thomas Wolfe's career, from hte uninhibited young writer meticulously describing the enchanting birth of springtime in "The Train and the City" to his mature, sober account of a terrible lynching in "The Child by Tiger". Thirty-five of these stories have never before been collected, and "The Spanish Letter" is published here for the first time.
"The Complete Short Stories of Thomas Wolfe" stands as the most comprehensive edition of Thomas Wolfe's short fiction to date. Collected by Francis E. Skipp, these fifty-eight stories span the breadth of Thomas Wolfe's career, from hte uninhibited young writer meticulously describing the enchanting birth of springtime in "The Train and the City" to his mature, sober account of a terrible lynching in "The Child by Tiger". Thirty-five of these stories have never before been collected, and "The Spanish Letter" is published here for the first time. Vital, compassionate, remarkably attuned to character, scene, and social context, "The Complete Short Stories of Thomas Wolfe" represents the last work we have from the author of "Look Homeward", "Angel", who was considered "the most promising writer of his generation" (The New York Times).
Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of Wolfe's death and a suitable occasion for a retrospective. Of the 58 stories in this volume, 35 have never before been collected, and one, ``The Spanish Letter,'' is published for the first time. Wolfe was not a short story writer; most of these fragments were plucked from his massive manuscripts, and many would be more appropriately classified as essay or memoir. ``The Spanish Letter,'' relating the author's visits to Nazi Germany, strongly condemns the ``poisoning'' of German culture and society by Hitler and his followers. It's a fine piece, but elsewhere Wolfe's well-known faults are conspicuously displayed. Even one of the best known of these stories, ``Only the Dead Know Brooklyn,'' now embarrasses with its inept attempt to reproduce a Brooklyn accent. The puerile ``Portrait of a Literary Critic'' and heavy-handed ``Justice Is Blind'' are equally disappointing. With all its flaws, this collection serves as a useful reminder of Wolfe's once-formidable presence and the wide influence he formerly exerted. (May 5)
For some readers, Wolfe's stories may yield, as James Dickey observes in his introduction, an ``imaginative surrender to whatever a situation or a memory evokes . . . a sense of life submitted to and entered.'' Others, however, may seek refuge from the viscid lyricism of Wolfe's rhapsodies in glue. Very few of the 58 items collected here were ever intended as short stories. Most are materials intended for his novels. Some are passages excerpted by his editors for separate publication; others are merely excised remnants. Published here in order of appearance as short stories (a limited asset since no dates are given), their strength lies in a sensual evocation of place, their weaknesses in ethnic stereotypes, stilted dialogue, and, curiously, a shapelessness that offends less in his novels than it does here. Arthur Waldhorn, English Dept., City Coll., CUNY
Thomas Wolfe was born in Asheville, North Carolina, and educated at the University of North Carolina and Harvard University. He taught English at New York University and traveled extensively in Europe and America. Wolfe created his indelible legacy as a classic American novelist with works including Of Time and the River; A Stone, a Leaf, a Door; and From Death to Morning. He died in 1938.
Thomas Wolfe was born on October 3, 1900, among the Blue Ridge Mountains in Asheville, North Carolina, a childhood which he immortalized through the creation of Eugene Gant, the hero of Look Homeward, Angel (1929). Wolfe enrolled at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill at the age of fifteen, determined to become a playwright, but despite the success of his college productions, and later, the plays he wrote during his studies at Harvard University's renowned 47 Workshop, he was unable to interest professional New York producers in his work.
Fearing penury and professional failure, Wolfe was encouraged to turn to the writing of fiction full-time by Aline Bernstein, a set designer for the New York Theatre Guild, with whom Wolfe carried on a five-year affair (and who appears in Wolfe's fiction as the Esther Jack character in The Web and the Rock (1939) and Of Time and the River.) Scribner's legendary Maxwell Perkins was the only editor to appreciate Wolfe's freshman effort, Look Homeward, Angel, and after extensive revisions and collaborative editing sessions, the novel was published in 1929. The largely autobiographical book was received with unequivocal enthusiasm. The residents of Asheville, however, the real-life denizens of this "drab circumstance," rebelled against Wolfe's often-scathing portrayal of his hometown. The public outcry was so great that Wolfe did not return to his hometown for seven years.
Rewarded with commercial success and a Guggenheim Fellowship, Wolfe wrote a second autobiographical saga about the life of Eugene Gant, Of Time and the River, in which Eugene, an aspiring novelist, details his travels to Europe. This time, the critics were torn. Wolfe's apparent formlessness was both a constant source of delight and frustration to critics, many of whom felt that Wolfe was pioneering new literary ground, while others insisted that the overweening passion inherent in Wolfe's rambling narratives betrayed the author's immaturity and solipsism.
Furthermore, Wolfe's intimate collaboration with his editor, Perkins were often derided by contemporaries, who insisted that Wolfe's inability to master novelistic form without significant editorial assistance rendered him artistically deficient. The rancorous extent of the criticism led to Wolfe's eventual break with Perkins, and in 1927, Wolfe signed with Edward C. Aswell at Harper. Yet Aswell had no less significant a role in reshaping and trimming Wolfe's future works than Perkins did previously.
The early part of 1938 found Wolfe in Brooklyn, this time writing with a new social agenda. Agreeing with some of his critics that his earlier work was indeed too egocentric, Wolfe rechristened Eugene Gant as George "Monk" Webber, and embarked on writing a new novel dedicated to exploring worldwide social and political ills. This mammoth undertaking, after gargantuan editorial efforts on the part of Aswell, would be published posthumously, and as two novels, The Web and the Rock (1939) and You Can't Go Home Again (1940), as well as The Hills Beyond (1941), a collection which contained short fiction, a play, and a novella.
Wolfe's development as a novelist was truncated by his sudden death at the age of thirty-eight, yet the progression of his novels showcases Wolfe's ever-evolving capacities as a writer. Navigating his way from self-obsessed chronicler of his own adolescence to sophisticated assessor of the adolescence of America itself, Wolfe was a writer who grew up in step with the country that both made him and maddened him. He died in 1938.