"Of Time and the River" like "Look Homeward Angel," to which it is a sequel, is an intense and panoromic narrative of life in, and a paean to, early 20th Century America from the perspective of a Southern writer gone North. In doing that it foresages the experiences of others who came after him like Willie Morris. Wolfe's work artfully evokes much of the era that Ken and Ric Burns seek to capture in their documentaries but from the perspective of a participant and his personal struggles in life. (Wolfe's evocation of New York City in the 20s and 30s in "Of Time and the River" come to mind in this regard). In sum, Wolfe's works are not only top-notch examples of American literature but stand as a monumental and inspiring expression of American culture and of the spirit that animated much of our society during the dawning period of the 20th Century. Wolfe's work is not the tradition of pop culture and has little in common with the work of the current writer of the same name. Thus, reading Wolfe's work can be intellectually challenging. Nevertheless, tackling these books can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience for those seriously interested in American history and culture. The movie "The Razor's Edge" based on a book by Somerset Maugham, one of Wolfe's literary mentors (and to whom Wolfe dedicated "Look Homeward Angel"), written after the latter's untimely death in 1938, depicts in cinematic form to a great degree much of the story and spirit of the age that Wolfe sought to communicate. Wolfe's work, notwithstanding its challenging level of literacy, is very absorbing and will only be found to be boring by more pedestrian readers.
This is a rather hysterical novel. Chapters of poetic descriptions of seasons and places seem to be indispersed among some sort of narrative. Characters are introduced in great detail and then vanish, sometimes to return later on. Wolfe was a feverish writer used to bursts of inspiration who had to [reluctantly] allow his publisher [Perkins] to edit his voluminous manuscript down to some sort of logical sequence. This shows in both this novel and its preceding volume [LOOK HOMEWARD]. The story is semi-autobiographical. The writing is, in a strange sort of way, unique.