North Carolina Icons: Thomas Wolfe

NC IconsThis week our North Carolina icon is Thomas Wolfe, best known for his novel Look Homeward, Angel. Wolfe is number 12 on Our State magazine’s list of 100 North Carolina Icons. You can visit his home in Asheville, which is a North Carolina Historic Site. The State Library of North Carolina has more information on Thomas Wolfe and other North Carolina icons. We have several Thomas Wolfe books available.


The Lost Boy, by Thomas WolfeThe Lost Boy: A Novella: Thomas Wolfe’s The Lost Boy is a captivating and poignant retelling of an episode from Wolfe’s childhood. The story of Wolfe’s brother Grover and his trip to the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair is told from four perspectives, each articulating the sentiments of a different family member. The Lost Boy also captures beautifully the experiences of growing up at the turn of the century and the exhilaration and loss of childhood. For this illustrated edition, James Clark unearthed Wolfe’s original manuscript, which was first published in the 1930s in a heavily abridged form.

The Party at Jack's, by Thomas WolfeThe Party at Jack’s: A Novella: Suzanne Stutman and John Idol worked from manuscript sources at Harvard University to reconstruct The Party at Jack’s as outlined by Wolfe before his death. Here, in its untruncated state, Wolfe’s novella affords a significant glimpse of a Depression-era New York inhabited by Wall Street wheelers and dealers and the theatrical and artistic elite. Wolfe describes the Jacks and their social circle with lavish attention to mannerisms and to clothing, furnishings, and other trappings of wealth and privilege. The sharply drawn contrast between the decadence of the party-goers and the struggles of the working classes in the streets below reveals Wolfe’s gifts as both a writer and a sharp social critic.

The Good Child’s River: For the last eight years of his life, Thomas Wolfe worked periodically on a series of chapters that were part of a huge work-in-progress. The work was based loosely on the early life of New York stage and costume designer Aline Bernstein, with whom Wolfe was engaged in a tempestuous love affair for eleven years. In her introduction, Suzanne Stutman points out that publication of this novel should finally lay to rest the myth that Wolfe could write only about himself. Although some sections of this work were heavily edited and published after Wolfe’s death, The Good Child’s River, as Wolfe wrote it, was not published until 1991.

My Other Loneliness: Letters of Thomas Wolfe and Aline Bernstein, edited by Susan Stutman: Written over an eleven-year period, these letters between Thomas Wolfe and Aline Bernstein chronicle a love affair that was by turns stormy, tender, bitter, and contrite.

Beyond Love and Loyalty, by Thomas WolfeBeyond Love and Loyalty: The Letters of Thomas Wolfe and Elizabeth Nowell, Together with ‘No More Rivers,’ a Story by Thomas Wolfe, edited by Richard S. Kennedy: Letters—mostly of the nuts-and-bolts, practical variety—between Thomas Wolfe and his literary agent, Elizabeth Nowell. Nowell served as Wolfe’s editor for many of his short stories, paring them down to make them acceptable to magazines. Oddly enough, his attitude toward her was grateful rather than adversarial, and their deep mutual respect is clearly evident in these letters.

The Notebooks of Thomas Wolfe: Volume 1 and Volume 2, edited by Richard S. Kennedy and Paschal Reeves: The notebooks of Thomas Wolfe constitute the most important body of Wolfe documents remaining to be published. The day-to-day jottings of a romantic of the world rather than the polished work of a critical literary intelligence, these notes are of primary significance in reconstructing Wolfe’s life and works. The editors introduce each notebook with a short statement indicating where Wolfe was at the time, what he was working on, and what crucial situations had entered his life. The text is annotated, with footnotes and explanatory comments inserted in the text.


Remember to keep an eye on our NC icons tag as each week we recommend more books about North Carolina’s best features.