Saturday, August 02, 2008

Just Clouds

Originally uploaded by jhhymas
This morning I finished the book about Thomas Wolfe, that great ecstatic child. He didn't even live to be 38, and was finished off by an illness that released tuberculosis pathogens from a healed over lesion. They invaded his brain. His new publishers carved up his manuscript into three separate books, which were published after his death.
The biography, which is by Elizabeth Nowell, who was his agent when he died and knew him the last few years of his life, is balanced, clear and very nicely done. Many books of this vintage are no longer such a pleasure to read.
One of the most touching things about the way this is done is the very careful source attribution she makes in the text and in footnotes of quoted phrases, sentences and narratives. This information is right on the same page, the way it often used to be, simply and clearly expressed. The effect was to give the reader more faith in the accuracy of the work.
Thomas Wolfe was a very important author to me when I was eighteen. My freshman year in college was also the year when I was unable to continue my practice of finishing a book every day. I had to cut back to three or four a week, or when reading Wolfe. even less, so I could go to college. I wish I could tell you I got really good grades that year, but it wouldn't be true.

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