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am 22. September 2013
This review is from: Look Homeward, Angel (Kindle Edition)

You can like this work or simply refuse it because of its epic breadth, its seemingly endless descriptions of nature and because of its huge dimensions .
The literary friend must have read it in any case, at least tentatively .
The writer of these lines (German)has read the book with great pleasure in one go. It is worth to try to read the original American version. With the Kindle it is,among the numerous dictionaries , which can be inexpensive bought in different versions , no problem. One touch on the unknown or unusual word is sufficient . Even everyday slang is understandable. In addition for German readers the brand new very successful German translation of Irma Wehrli (2009 ) can be read in parallel , especially if sprawling descriptions are simply not understandable for a non-native-speaker.
The novel describes the lives of two generations of a family ( Pennsylvania Dutch, with German roots ) in Asheville / North Carolina, in the crisp coolness of the Appalachians. There further always exists the strong longing to the warm, in summer unbearably hot and humid south.
There is the father , a powerful and even violent, often drunken stonemason, and there are his youngest son Eugene, highly sensitive and the mother , enterprising and industrious. She prepares the modest prosperity, the financial basis on which the family lives.
Eloquently, sometimes unbearable lengthy, but highly pictorial are the descriptions of the nature, the surroundings they are living in and too of the large family.
The reader will soon feel involved in this family with this huge , peace , security, safety and durability giving father, even if binge drinking and wild riots are attended reguarly . He experiences the turn and the beginning of the 20th Century and the World War I, and recognizes the U.S. more strongly involved and concerned, as it is commonly believed in Europe .
You look at the rather bleak, harsh and depressing city of Altamont( in reality Asheville) set in the majestic mountain world with the typical " Main Street " , the miserable quarter of the blacks and the residential areas of the middle class and the wealthy. The reader experiences the hard life of the younger children, who need to get their early " Nickels ' home, the college-time of Eugene, the early death of his brother during the raging influenza epidemic.

It is worthwhile to read this novel, even if you put aside it for some time and bring it to an end only after the second attempt . After all this is American world Literature!
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am 10. Mai 2000
What sets this book apart from most 'coming of age' stories is the stunning combination of poetic language and monumental vision with which Wolfe imbues this tale of Eugene Gant's blossoming into manhood. No other American writer of novels has managed to utilize a voice so lush and exacting at the same time. The reader is literally seduced into the world that Wolfe creates and provided with an experience as rich as any in modern fiction.
Thomas Wolfe was a large man, and he thought and acted in a large way. His editor, Maxwell Perkins, had to severly cut down the size of the gigantic text that he was given, and it is still a big book in all respects - in sheer size, breadth of vision, and thematic scope.
This is one of those books I have to return to every few years just to see if it is still as good as I remember. While it is very much an adolescent book - in the sense that it storms the emotions with a 'Romantic' intensity - and I am much more critical than the young man who first read it - I find that I am still awed at Wolfe's talent and command.
This is one of those 'must read' books for all who would be conversant with modern American fiction. It's type has been out of fashion for some time, but it can't be ignored as a substantial contribution that is uniquely its own thing.
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am 24. März 2000
"Look Homeward Angel" is undeniably a young man's story and as such, I wonder if it appeals to men more than it does to women. It's hard to imagine how the novel's countless aches and awkward blunders would fail to resonate with any man's youthful recollections. When readers in Woolfe's hometown castigated him for his venial characterization of the people he grew up with, Woolfe pointed out that none of his characters represented any one particular person. Instead, their qualities were so real and so vivid that readers felt they instantly recognized them. And so it was with me, although I was born decades after Woolfe's death and raised in a different part of the country. The dialog, drama, and emotional undercurrents of "Look Homeward Angel" were strangely and overwhelmingly recognizable. This is the genius of Woolfe.
My favorite parts of the novel vary considerably. I love the prose poem in the very beginning of the book. I also love the protagonist's descriptions of seemingly ordinary activities such as walking through a pasture on a fall evening. Such passages have the unnerving quality of being accessible yet somehow ineffable. A part of you is walking through the field with Eugene Gant taking in the cold wind, the smells of smoke and cow manure under the grim sky. Another part of you is asking why that experience feels so real and immediate even though you've never had it before.
Woolfe took a microscope to ordinary people and somehow rendered them great. He did not accord them the stature of epoch heroes or contemporary celebrities. Instead, he rendered their feelings and actions as immediate as their surroundings. You probably would not want to be any of the people in "Look Homeward Angel" and you might not even like them that much. But you will come away from the book with the sense of knowing those people intimately. For this reason, it is impossible to finish "Look Homeward Angel" without a having profound emotional response.
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am 29. Dezember 1997
Before I read this, I was hopeful about Wolfe's writing. I had never read him before and had heard complimentary reviews of his work. I was hoping to find a Modern American writer that has been neglected because of the dominance of Faulkner, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, et al. Wolfe excels in description and that is what much of the novel is, description of his family and his hometown. A thinly veiled autobiography, the novel is a bildungsroman set in his hometown, Asheville, NC. Many times, the description is wonderful and uplifting, but at other times, annoying. Wolfe has a tendency to overwrite. No one wishes this book any longer.
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am 21. August 1999
Coming upon some of the reviews written herein, one is startled to hear repeated cliches in lieu of actual opinions. The most refreshing review; that is to say, the least sycophantic; is unfortunately the one furnished by a member of a women's book club whose latterday "sewing circle" found the novel tedious. (And so it should seem to proper citizens, one might hazard to comment. Poetry always has seemed foreign to good, clean simple folk. ("Stick to Oprah's book club, ladies. You cannot fail to be out of your depth in picking up the work of an artist like Thomas Wolfe!")) Forgive the brazen honesty, but it's true: the writing of this profoundly gifted man, like all great art, is not for everybody. It's for the discerning few. Its appeal is not that of McDonald's or MTV. That is, it does not pretend to a mass market. It is, rather, personal--deeply, touchingly . . . hauntingly. "Look Homeward, Angel" is a novel for poets and dreamers; a book for lovers of beauty and worshipers of the creative image; a manifesto of the morally subversive and socially irresponsible. Alas, it is Art.
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am 17. Februar 2000
I feel sorry for anyone who can't find echoes of their own youth in Wolfe's undeniably Romantic writing. You won't find clipped Hemingway-esque sentences, nor the pages-long obscure wanderings of fellow Southerner Faulkner, but Wolfe recreates his world so perfectly that filming it would be redundant. "Self-absorbed"? Yes, how else could anyone produce a literary translation of a life's experience? Cliched? Not when it was written, although as a "coming of age" novel it has many predecessors, none were so ambitious in scope or detail. Achingly, achingly nostalgic, beautifully written, TRUE to itself, sparing nothing of the author or his vision. Pretentious? Hardly, especially when set next to the Oprah-fied books on the best-seller lists today. This and its immediate succesor "Of Time and the River" are, to me, arguably the finest books ever written describing not just life in America but more importantly the sense of loss through time and distance of love, family, and home and the emotional maturation that follows.
No, I couldn't recommend this to EVERYbody, but if you haven't become too sophisticated to remember what it was really like to be young, lonely, in love, or homesick, or to see though a child's eyes the wonder in a leaf, a stone, a door; to cry "Oh, lost!" over a memory, you will find much to cherish in this book.
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am 21. November 1999
Wolfe is definitely a master of prose and words, at times hisdescriptions and observations of life are captivating and inspiring.However, the book did move very slowly at times, as his level of detail and character development was almost unparalled compared to others authors I have read. This was good and bad, at times it was really boring, no matter how intellectual I wanted to be, and it was difficult to keep going, however you really do get a sense of the characters. For a true look at small town American life at this point in history, there is no equivalent that I have come across. The last half of the book is especially poignant, and the most interesting development of the book for me was to witness Gene's transformation from child to a wanderlust stricken youth. There are no happy endings here, there are no unbelievable revelations, only a family and its tumultuous journey through this strange travel that we call life. You will either love this book, or you will hate it, but if you have the patience to persevere through Wolfe's long-winded prose, it is well worth the time.
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am 17. Januar 2000
This is a book about Wolfe's boring southern life. It's cliche to the extreme: "romantic" young man goes to university, laments the fact that he is so much more intelligent than others, wishes people could understand him, returns home and looks down on everybody there. Unfortunately Wolfe is not close to being intelligent or interesting (and he certainly is not a genius as he himself said!). Wolfe obviously thinks that everything that has happened in his life will be of interest to the reader, after all he holds himself to be a genius, but one immediately sees how self-important he is, and how seriously he takes his ridiculous outlook. This is a nostalgic book; if you want to read a nostalgic book, read some Proust or Nabokov, who both soar above Wolfe, and let Wolfe be forgotten as he soon will be.
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am 24. Februar 1999
This novel, his first, captures perhaps more than any other debut the fantastic potential this young man would show in his later writings. There is an old maxim that states that one should write what he or she knows, and Thomas Wolfe did just that. Other writers, with less than sincere motives, portray their surroundings with cynicism and malice; Wolfe wrote with an idealism that is heartbreaking in its naivete.
Eugene Gant, like his real life counterpart, is a young man overflowing with a passion for life. Wolfe captured perfectly the ebullient and sensitive nature of this youth. But more than that, he somehow managed to portray Youth itself, with all of its passions, heartaches, and fever.
Wolfe was no less generous with his portrayals of the characters who made up his family and acquaintances, describing them through the eyes of one who has yet to venture into the world. These portrayals, while not always flattering, are nonetheless sincere and honest.
Much has been said about Wolfe's style, his tendency for verbosity. Many feel that his writing might have benefitted from more careful editing. But to limit Wolfe's prose is to limit the man, to cut him off at the knees. As Wolfe was acutely sensitive to every sensation that he encountered, so did his style reflect his unique experience of the world. His writing overflows with imagery, and he gives the reader the gift of experiencing life as he felt it.
This novel lacks the fine-tuning and subtlety of his later work. The words rush recklessly, in a torrent of images and experiences, much like adolescence itself. In his story one can find, or recapture, what it means to be young and idealistic. Most of all, Thomas Wolfe left us a masterpiece that shows what it is like to be young and to feel as if the entire universe was created for each of us, alone.
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am 10. August 1998
I agree that this is that Great American Novel everyone keeps talking about. It has its flaws, but then, well, so does America. Overshadowing any shortcomings, however, is the depth of feeling evoked by the author. The Gant brothers' interactions with each other form some of the most touching relationships in all of literature. There's a loneliness here that will make many readers cry for its quiet beauty. Some day, when literary critics are scholars again and not charlatans, this book will receive the credit it's due. Meanwhile, you should be one of those who read it while it is still relatively overlooked. It's primary flaw is the length--it could have used more editing--but that is such a minor complaint when compared with all the warmth and intelligence the book conveys.
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