Rags of Light

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I don't know about Thomas Wolfe.

Well, I finished Look Homeward, Angel.

As I’d been told, there are passages of sublime writing. But the risk of this kind of unrelentingly luscious, almost-over-the-top prose is that it’s almost sure to go, well, over the top, and Wolfe’s does, often. Too many times I felt as if I were reading a young smart aleck’s parody of Thomas Wolfe.

I had trouble finding any of his histrionic cast of characters believable, let alone appealing.

Famously, Look Homeward is the product of extensive editing by Maxwell Perkins, who tried to cut Wolfe’s sprawling text down to publishable size. Some think he dishonored Wolfe’s genius in the interests of commerce. I think he was much too lenient. The final, dreamlike chapter starts out wonderfully. About halfway through it the novel came (I thought) to a beautiful, perfect end. But no. The chapter takes off into a frenzy of verbiage that, for me, ruins everything..

And then there’s the racial stuff. I’m very far from being one of those ban-Mark-Twain types, but, just, ugh.

At some point I’ll probably read Of Time and the River, Wolfe’s only other completed novel. But I certainly haven’t enrolled as a fan.