To Loot My Life Clean: The Thomas Wolfe-Maxwell Perkins Correspondence

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2000 Hardback NEW 9781570033551 This listing is a new book, a title currently in-print which we order directly and immediately from the publisher. *****PLEASE NOTE: This item ... is shipping from an authorized seller in Europe. In the event that a return is necessary, you will be able to return your item within the US. To learn more about our European sellers and policies see the BookQuest FAQ section***** Read more Show Less

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"I want, much more than I have ever in this first draught, to loot my life clean, if possible of every memory which a buried life and the thousand faces of forgotten time could awaken and to weave it into Antaeus like a great densely woven web . . ."
—Thomas Wolfe to Maxwell Perkins, April 1933

The relationship between Thomas Wolfe and his legendary editor, Maxwell Perkins, has been the subject of guesswork and anecdote for seventy years. Beginning with the 1929 publication of Look Homeward, Angel, literary scholars have debated the writer’s dependence on his editor and the degree to which Perkins participated in Wolfe’s work. Now, with this volume of 251 letters between Wolfe and the House of Scribner (two-thirds of which have never been published), the mythologized friendship between the author and the editor is clarified, and the record can be set straight.

Celebrated for his close literary relationships with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and other literary giants of the early twentieth century, Maxwell Perkins was both mentor and father figure to Thomas Wolfe. According to the introduction, "The letters published here document Wolfe’s artistic and professional problems, and demonstrate how Perkins, serving as both editor and friend, aided Wolfe in solving them. Only by considering all of the author/editor/publisher correspondence can Wolfe’s literary career and his complex relationship with Charles Scribner’s Sons be properly assessed." The successes and pains of both Wolfe’s career and his friendship with Perkins are revealed in letters between the two as well as through Wolfe’s correspondence with other Scribner employees. Documenting an important era in American literary history, the letters of To Loot My Life Clean span the Wolfe-Perkins friendship, from their meeting in 1929, through the novelist’s break with his editor and the House of Scribner, until Wolfe’s death in 1938.

About the Editors:
Matthew J. Bruccoli, Emily Brown Jefferies Professor of English at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, is the leading authority on F. Scott Fitzgerald and the authors of the House of Scribner.

Park Bucker earned his Ph.D. in American literature from the University of South Carolina in Columbia. He is the editor of The Catalogue of the Matthew J. and Arlyn Bruccoli Collection of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Bucker’s volume on social fiction is forthcoming.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A complete collection of the 10-year correspondence between novelist Thomas Wolfe and Scribner editor Maxwell Perkins debunks the myth that Wolfe was an undisciplined child-genius dependent on a stern father-editor. The volume's 251 letters, two-thirds of which are published for the first time, include correspondence with John Hall Wheelock (who handled the line-editing and proofreading Perkins shunned) and other Scribner's staff. Wolfe's letters resemble his novels: frenzied, expansive, rawly emotional and confessional, as chaotic as the American scene he celebrated. Most were written abroad, as the peripatetic Wolfe fled the distractions of critics and his destructive relationship with socialite Aline Bernstein. Wandering and homesickness are constant themes. Wolfe's mercurial personality blazes forth as he rhapsodizes about America's romantic grandeur and rails against "the sterility crowd," the "sniffers, whiffers and puny, poisonous apes" like T.S. Eliot and other Lost Generation writers he felt were in love with despair. Wolfe emerges as driven, intensely committed, locked in a torturous, exhausting struggle with his talent and material that verges on madness--a writer reliant on his editor's judgment but also possessing a clear artistic vision. High-strung, hypersensitive to criticism and in need of constant reassurance, he is difficult, demanding and "crammed to the lips with living." Though sorely tested by their contentious professional relationship, Wolfe and Perkins's abiding affection clearly survived Wolfe's 1937 break with Scribner's. "My friendship with Tom," wrote Perkins to Wolfe's family after his death in 1938, "was one of the greatest things in my life." Bruccoli, a Fitzgerald scholar at the University of South Carolina, and his associate Bucker, present a fascinating, if partial, portrait of one of the 20th century's most vital creative partnerships. Illus. (Oct.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
ea. vol: Univ. of South Carolina. Oct. 2000 .LIT The University of South Carolina Press is celebrating Wolfe's centenary in grand style with the release of this brace of volumes. Few books in American literature are as shackled to misinformation as 1929's Look Homeward, Angel, with its false legend of a manuscript that could fill everything from a truck to an attic. That ponderous sheaf, in fact, was slightly more than 1100 pages--roughly six inches of paper. To make it more marketable, the manuscript was winnowed down by the House of Scribner into the book the public long has known. Renowned literary scholar Matthew J. Bruccoli and wife Arlyn have reestablished the text from the carbon copy of the original typescript and Wolfe's handwritten manuscript to its intended form under the title O Lost. The reinsertion of expurgated material puts the marrow back in the novel's bones, making for a richer reading experience. Many great works by Wolfe's contemporaries reflect a specific time, but screaming from its pages are themes of suppression of the true self, of lives lived unfulfilled, of familial estrangement, and of placing wealth and status above love, which may make this novel speak louder to today's audience than ever before. The Wolfe-Perkins correspondence presents 251 letters between the writer and editor, roughly two-thirds of which have never been published. The letters serve as a chronicle of Wolfe's near-paternal relationship with Perkins as well as his brief publishing career, which ended with his untimely death from tuberculosis at age 38. Both volumes additionally sport photos, introductions, and several appendixes of scholarly notes. Who says you can't go home again? Wolfe's restored epic is more magnificent than ever and quite ready to take its rightful place among the literary masterpieces of the 20th century. The release of O Lost and To Loot My Life Clean is the literary publishing event of 2000 and the first literary milestone of the 21st century. While the letters volume is more for scholars, O Lost is essential for every public and academic library in the country. Highly recommended.--Michael Rogers, "Library Journal" Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781570033551
  • Publisher: University of South Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 10/1/2000
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 340
  • Product dimensions: 6.27 (w) x 9.57 (h) x 1.02 (d)

Meet the Author

Thomas Wolfe
Thomas Wolfe
A larger than life figure -- like his contemporary, Ernest Hemingway -- Thomas Wolfe embodied a particularly American vision of the restless and eager writer, taking in the totality of his life experience and turning it into a gigantic, unwieldy vision in prose. With the publication of his semiautobiographical Look Homeward, Angel in 1929, Wolfe announced his dramatic entrance on the stage of modern fiction; but an early death made his exit sadly premature.


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.

Author biography courtesy of HarperCollins.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Thomas Clayton Wolfe (full name)
    1. Date of Birth:
      October 3, 1900
    2. Place of Birth:
      Asheville, North Carolina
    1. Date of Death:
      September 15, 1938
    2. Place of Death:
      Baltimore, Maryland

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