Ten Responses to "Do You Read Thomas Wolfe?" That Won't Make You Sound Like an Idiot

As Thomas Wolfe becomes increasingly famous, again, and as Asheville rises with the Wolfean tide, again, here are some responses to the question, "Have you read Wolfe?" that won't make you sound like an idiot, even if you don't read Wolfe. The key here is to avoid saying, "His sentences are too long."
10. The Planned Engagement:
Like a lot of people of my generation, I haven't come across much Wolfe. I plan to pick up a copy of the short stories. Do you have a favorite?
9. The Deflection:
Oh, you like Wolfe! You can tour his house here! It's just over there on Market Street. You can also stand in his shoes. They've been bronzed!
8. The Shut Down:
I have indeed! I've read every word, and the journals, and the letters, as well as multiple published versions of Look Homeward, Angel. I found O Lost to be much more satsifying and loved reading the two side by side, highlighting the altered passages. My dream is to spend a summer thumbing through the original drafts, all two million words of them.
7. The Shame
Oh, you know, living here in Asheville, with so many descendants of the actual characters in Look Homeward walking around, teaching your kids, running the florists and being doctors and all, it's a bit bad of form to read Wolfe. If you do read him while you're here in town, it's best to keep it on the sly. Like a speakeasy, only for books. A read-easy, if you will. We'd be wise not to talk about it further, not in the open like this.
6. The Passion:
I had a girlfriend who loved reading Wolfe, and we read Of Time and River while we backpacked around Europe back in the 80s. It was the best few weeks of my life, then she dumped me on the Rhine for a Spanish soccer player, and I threw my copy overboard. It's now all soggy at the base of the Lorelei. But I loved every word of it. (Sigh heavily til interlocutor changes subject to avoid your total breakdown)
5. The Scholar:
At this time, I'm more interested in the criticism surrounding Wolfe. (Then just wait . . . you probably are safe from further engagement. If you discover you are not, run.)
4. The Side Step
Wolfe is such a stunning asset to American literature, and it's exciting to see his legacy revived. While it's been some time since I read You Can't Go Home Again, there's no doubt that it's one of the greatest books in the English language. I just wish they hadn't changed the name from Eugene Gant to George Weber. (interlocutor here will no doubt enjoy a monologue espousing his or her shared sentiments; conversation will very likely veer into the editing narrative, which you can happily let interlocutor control at no expense to your literary profile)
3. The Techscuse:
I think all my technology usage has made my brain incapable of reading Wolfe the way it's meant to be read, which I understand is to allow time for each paragraph to wash over you, each sentence to take form in your mind before you move on to the next. I'm eager to remedy this, but my job requires me to be plugged in all the time. (yes, this is dangerously close to "the sentences are too long," but it has a reflective context. Interlocutor might even pity you then walk on)
2. The Sentimental Journey:
My father used to read Wolfe to me when I was a kid. I still have his copy of Look Homeward, Angel, all beaten up from his college days. I pick it up from time to time, but it makes me very nostalgic, which I suppose Wolfe would have wanted.
1. The Best Answer:
I am two-thirds of the way through Look Homeward, Angel now. I read it at his grave for an hour each day over in Montford, when the weather's nice, and on the porch of the house, if it's raining. With a thermos of coffee and a flask of Makers.


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