You Can't Go Home Again

You Can't Go Home Again

4.5 8
by Thomas Wolfe

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Part Two Of Two Parts

In this sequel to The Web and the Rock and the last novel Wolfe wrote, George Webber, back from Europe, resumes his affair with Esther Jack and finally succeeds as a writer. At the pinnacle of his happiness, he returns to his hometown in North Carolina.

It's a mistake, for Webber is disillusioned by what he sees. The episode is said to


Part Two Of Two Parts

In this sequel to The Web and the Rock and the last novel Wolfe wrote, George Webber, back from Europe, resumes his affair with Esther Jack and finally succeeds as a writer. At the pinnacle of his happiness, he returns to his hometown in North Carolina.

It's a mistake, for Webber is disillusioned by what he sees. The episode is said to parallel Wolfe's own experience in Asheville, NC, and is therefore highly autobiographical.

"A vital and wide-embracing picture of American life." (The New York Times)

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Wolfe wrote as one inspired. No one in his generation had his command of language, his passion, his energy.” —Clifton Fadiman, The New Yorker

You Can’t Go Home Again will stand apart from everthing else that [Wolfe] wrote because this is the book of a man who had come to terms with himself, who was on his wa to mastery of his art, who had something profoundly important to say.” –New York Times Book Review

Donald Adams
It is also one of the finest pieves of writing that Wolfe ever accomplished. It is a fitting conclution to a book which has the air of nobility about it. This is the story of a man who found himself, in relation to life, in relation to his time.-- Books of the Century; New York Times review, September 1940
Philip Roth
“In 1949, when I was sixteen, I stumbled on Thomas Wolfe, who died at thirty-eight in 1938, and who made numerous adolescents aside from me devotees of literature for life. In Wolfe, everything was heroically outsized, whether it was the voracious appetite for experience of Eugene Gant, the hero of his first two novels, or of George Webber, the hero of his last two. The hero's loneliness, his egocentrism, his sprawling consciousness gave rise to a tone of elegiac lyricism that was endlessly sustained by the raw yearning for an epic existence—for an epic American existence. And, in those postwar years, what imaginative young reader didn't yearn for that?”

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6.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.60(d)

Read an Excerpt


The Drunken Beggar on Horseback

It was the hour of twilight on a soft spring day toward the end of Aprilin the year of Our Lord 1929, and George Webber leaned his elbows on the sill of his back window and looked out at what he could see of New York. His eye took in the towering mass of the new hospital at the end of the block, its upper floors set back in terraces, the soaring walls salmon colored in the evening light. This side of the hospital, and directly opposite, was the lower structure of the annex, where the nurses and the waitresses lived. In the restof the block half a dozen old brick houses, squeezed together in a solid row, leaned wearily against each other and showed their backsides to him.

The air was strangely quiet. All the noises of the city were muted here into a distant hum, so unceasing that it seemed to belong to silence. Suddenly, through the open windows at the front of the house came the raucous splutter of a truck starting up at the loading platform of the warehouse across the street. The heavy motor warmed up with a full-throated roar, then there was a grinding clash of gears, and George felt the old house tremble under him as the truck swung out into the street and thundered off. The noise receded, grew fainter,then faded into the general hum, and all was quiet as before.

As George leaned looking out of his back window a nameless happiness welled within him and he shouted over to the waitresses in the hospital annex, who were ironing out as usual their two pairs of drawers and their flimsy little dresses. He heard, as from a great distance, the faint shouts of children playing in the streets, and, near at hand, the low voicesof the people in the houses. He watched the cool, steep shadows, and saw how the evening fight was moving in the little squares of yards, each of which had in it something intimate, familiar, and revealing -- a patch of earth in which a pretty woman had been setting out flowers, working earnestly for hours and wearing a big straw hat and canvas gloves; a little plot of new-sown grass, solemnly watered every evening by a man with a square red face and a bald head; a tittle shed or playhouse or workshop for some business man's spare-time hobby; or a gay-painted table, some easy lounging chairs, and a huge bright-striped garden parasol to cover it, and a good-looking girl who had been sitting there all afternoon reading, with a coat thrown over her shoulders and a tall drink at her side.

Through some enchantment of the quiet and the westering fight and the smell of April in the air, it seemed to George that he knew these people all around him. He loved this old house on Twelfth Street, its red brick walls, its rooms of noble height and spaciousness, its old dark woods and floors that creaked; and in the magic of the moment it seemed to be enriched and given a profound and lonely dignity by all the human beings it had sheltered in its ninety years. The house became like a living presence. Every object seemed to have an animate vitality of its own -- walls, rooms, chairs, tables, even a half wet bath towel hanging from the shower ring above the tub, a coat thrown down upon a chair, and his papers, manuscripts, and books scattered about the room in wild confusion.

The simple joy he felt at being once more a part of such familiar things also contained an element of strangeness and unreality. With a sharp stab of wonder he reminded himself, as he had done a hundred times in the last few weeks, that he had really come home again-home to America, home to Manhattan's swarming rock, and home again to love; and his happiness was faintly edged with guilt when he remembered that less than a year before he had gone abroad in anger and despair, seeking to escape what now he had returned to.

In his bitter resolution of that spring a year ago, he had wanted most of all to get away from the woman he loved. Esther Jack was much older than he, married and living with her husband and grown daughter. But she had given George her love, and given it so deeply, so exclusively, that he had come to feel himself caught as in a trap. It was from that he had wanted to escape-that and the shameful memory of their savage quarrels, and a growing madness in himself which had increased in violence as she had tried to hold him. So he had finally left her and fled to Europe. He had gone away to forget her, only to find that he could not; he had done nothing but think of her all the time. The memory of her rosy, jolly face, her essential goodness, her sure and certain talent, and all the hours that they had spent together returned to torture him with new desire and longing for her.

Thus, fleeing from a love that still pursued him, he had become a wanderer in strange countries. He had traveled through England, France, and Germany, had seen countless new sights and people, and-cursing, whoring, drinking, brawling his way across the continent-had had his head bashed in, some teeth knocked out, and his nose broken in a beer-hall fight. And then, in the solitude of convalescence in a Munich hospital, lying in bed upon his back with his ruined face turned upward toward the ceiling, he had nothing else to do but think. There, at last, he had learned a little sense. There his madness had gone out of him, and for the first time in many years he had felt at peace within himself...

You Can't Go Home Again. Copyright © by Thomas Wolfe. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Thomas Wolfe (1900-1938) 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 Look Homeward, Angel; Of Time and the River; A Stone, a Leaf, a Door; and From Death to Morning.

Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
October 3, 1900
Date of Death:
September 15, 1938
Place of Birth:
Asheville, North Carolina
Place of Death:
Baltimore, Maryland
B.A., University of North Carolina, 1920; M.A., Harvard University, 1922; further graduate study, 1923

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You Can't Go Home Again 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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thewrightstuff136 More than 1 year ago
I read this years ago and am revisiting it because I am one that is pondering whether one CAN go home again or not. I have not gotten too far in this version yet, mainly because it is cumbersome. I wish the book was in the old, mass-market style. It's easier to manage and carry. But for content - a classic and a must-read for those who leave home!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Guest More than 1 year ago
One of the all time best novels of the twentienth century, and definetely one of those books everyone should read. Wolfe digs deep into the character's minds and makes you feel like you konw them. The avid descriptions are like none other, and definetely keeps you hooked until the end. I have to admit, though, that there were soem parts that were too detailed and had no relevance to the novel itself but even with these parts, the book kept me interesting until the last page. It is of a writer, who is banned frome ever returning home again, and instead goes on a world wide journey in search of his identity. It makes you rethink your own life, and that of the people around you. This is definetely one of the all time best books ever written and you should read this without a doubt!