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The stunning, classic coming-of-age novel written by one of America's foremost Southern writers

A legendary author on par with William Faulkner and Flannery O'Connor, Thomas Wolfe published Look Homeward, Angel, his first novel, about a young man's burning desire to leave his small town and tumultuous family in search of a better life, in 1929. It gave the world proof of his genius and launched a powerful legacy.

The novel follows the trajectory of Eugene Gant, a brilliant and restless young man whose wanderlust and passion shape his adolescent years in rural North Carolina. Wolfe said that Look Homeward, Angel is "a book made out of my life," and his largely autobiographical story about the quest for a greater intellectual life has resonated with and influenced generations of readers, including some of today's most important novelists. Rich with lyrical prose and vivid characterizations, this twentieth-century American classic will capture the hearts and imaginations of every reader.
Published: Scribner on
ISBN: 9781416542438
List price: $14.99
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astounding more
Why did I read this book? Well, I read “You Can’t Go Home Again” when I was about sixteen, and was impressed by Wolfe’s lavish prose. So I decided to read this, and almost instantly regretted it. But I slogged through the whole thing.

The hardest thing was the level of racism and sexism. It’s totally understandable for a book written by a Southern white man in the 20s. In this autobiographical novel, he was describing the environment he lived in, and the way he thought about it. But it just really grates on modern sensibilities.

And yes, sometimes his writing is gorgeous, rich, and amazing. But most of the time it just feels way, way overwritten. His adjective-heavy sentences can feel over-stuffed. So I’m not recommending that anybody else read this, even though there are about a dozen pages that are transcendent. It just wasn’t enough for me. Maybe books like this aren’t supposed to be read out of their time.
more
Contradictory word vomit.
Whole passages with no point or relevance.
Don't know what he's talking about when he goes on a tangent from the story. He assumes the reader can follow his train of thought.
"This must be good writing, because it seems so very dull." I assume this is Wolfe's take on why he thought he wrote a classic?
more
It was a major struggle to get through the incredibly dense writing, but worth it.more
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Reviews

astounding more
Why did I read this book? Well, I read “You Can’t Go Home Again” when I was about sixteen, and was impressed by Wolfe’s lavish prose. So I decided to read this, and almost instantly regretted it. But I slogged through the whole thing.

The hardest thing was the level of racism and sexism. It’s totally understandable for a book written by a Southern white man in the 20s. In this autobiographical novel, he was describing the environment he lived in, and the way he thought about it. But it just really grates on modern sensibilities.

And yes, sometimes his writing is gorgeous, rich, and amazing. But most of the time it just feels way, way overwritten. His adjective-heavy sentences can feel over-stuffed. So I’m not recommending that anybody else read this, even though there are about a dozen pages that are transcendent. It just wasn’t enough for me. Maybe books like this aren’t supposed to be read out of their time.
more
Contradictory word vomit.
Whole passages with no point or relevance.
Don't know what he's talking about when he goes on a tangent from the story. He assumes the reader can follow his train of thought.
"This must be good writing, because it seems so very dull." I assume this is Wolfe's take on why he thought he wrote a classic?
more
It was a major struggle to get through the incredibly dense writing, but worth it.more
Rating: 2.5* of fiveThe Book Report: Oliver Cole's a drunk, Eliza Cole's a shrew, they have six kids and she doesn't like him, or childbirth, or poverty, or much of anything else that I can see. Oliver likes his youngest, Eugene, better than any of them (so do I, but that's not sayin' a lot), and spends what tiny about of love Eliza hasn't nagged and bitched and niggled and criticized and belittled out of him on the kid.Eugene grows up in a boardinghouse called Dixieland in Asheville, North Carolina. OOOPSIE! I mean Altamont, Catawba. Wolfe didn't want anyone to know he was writing autobiography, see, so he invented a city and a state! Wow! And then he wrote about the people around him honestly, forthrightly, and in a stream-of-Faulkner style that was then très chic and is even now described as modernistic. EIGHTY PLUS YEARS LATER IT'S NOT EXPERIMENTAL OR MODERN ANYMORE, BOYS AND GIRLS, IT'S PART OF THE TOOLKIT.Ahem. Sorry.So Eugene grows up, and we do too, and then leaves home, and we do too, and then everything comes to a screeching halt. Thank GAWD for small mercies.My Review: I am no fan of the coming-of-age novel, and I don't often read them. I read this one when I was fifteen, because I wanted to impress a hot boy I was trying to get into my bed, and he thought this was the coolest book ever. I read it every damn day in study hall so he'd notice me, which he did, and we ended up talking about the book for hours.And that was ALL I got. Yip-yap-yop about Eugene's life and his deepness and ohdeargawdpleasekillmenow stuff about the damn BOOK!!I don't think I've ever forgiven the book for not getting me laid.But upon mature reflection, I still dislike the book, for better (more adult, anyway) reasons. One is that even editing legend Max Perkins couldn't give Wolfe a deft enough hand to tell this story in so demanding a style as stream-of-consciousness without it spilling over into self-indulgence and sloppy, untidy, unnecessary sentimentality.Another is Eugene/Tom's misogyny. I yield to no one in my distaste for the Cult of Female Superiority, whether motivated by “chivalry” or by feminism. Women ain't better than men, but likewise they ain't worse either. Wolfe's woman, mama Eliza, is a horrible gorgon of a vicious emasculating harridan. She has depths to her nastiness and pretension that are entirely credible. What she lacks is the balancing of REASONS for these things. In the first two zillion words, which detail the lives of Eliza and Oliver, Eliza emerges fully formed as a castrating slime. She was born this way? I doubt me much this is true.Lastly comes Wolfe's conceit. In this Bildungs-barely-roman, he relives the first years of his life...an ordinary, unremarkable one...seemingly in real time. Why? What for? Here is the nub of my objection to coming-of-age stories: We've all come of age, so what makes your story special? In Wolfe's case, I do not see the special. It is entirely possible that I am resistant to his specialness because the story is so boring to me. But I quite simply can not fathom what makes this dreary, low-class, hag-ridden tribe of ciphers anything I should care enough about to do more than put a coin in the charity box to help feed.more
This is a nearly impossible book to review. It is at once a classic, an experimental masterpiece, a resounding mess, and a beautiful failure. When I talk about which books inspired me to become a writer I often cite LET US NOW PRAISE FAMOUS MEN by James Agee. LOOK HOMEWARD ANGEL would, I suspect, have had the same sort of effect on me had I read it when I was a teenager, which is the age at which I read FAMOUS MEN. At such an age, and with the wild, passionate temperament of youth, I thrilled to the elevated (faintly purple) prose, the long passages of meandering, if somewhat superfluous beauty, the self-consciousness, the insistence by the author to include EVERYTHING. But re-reading FAMOUS MEN, and now reading ANGEL as a middle-aged woman I am impatient with the self-indulgence, which in Agee I put down to too much whiskey, but for which I have no such excuse in Wolfe. I find myself skipping passages, which is never a good sign. There is no denying Wolfe's stunning capacity for character depth. The question is, does the story require quite this much depth? If passages were trimmed, if details were pared down to only the very best, would anything have been lost? I suspect not. Faulkner and Kerouac both cited Wolfe as an influence, and I can see that -- the high poetics, the stream-of-consciousness, the young man's unbridled, undisciplined approach to art is obvious. And there is certainly a value in that. I just wish Wolfe had made more choices, instead of flinging everything at the page and then keeping everything. There's something to be said for Oscar Wilde, who "spent the morning putting in a comma, and spent the afternoon taking it out again."I would definitely recommend ANGEL to my fourteen-year-old self. It would have, I think, enhanced my writer's education, and I will recommend it to anyone under the age of 25 who either wants to be a writer or who loves literature. But for those of us who have lived a while, and who have less patience for pyrotechnics, ANGEL is a bit of a slog, albeit a mightily poetic one.more
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