Academic journal article Thomas Wolfe Review

FDR

Academic journal article Thomas Wolfe Review

FDR

Article excerpt

Wolfe comes in for mention in chapter 7, "A Summer of Dust and Weeds," in Kenneth S. Davis's FDR: Into the Storm 1937-1940 (Random House, 1993). Davis writes about the president's return to his Hudson River estate for a vacation in 1938:

   And because he so returned--because, too, of a
   1935 novel by a lushly rhetorical Whitmanesque writer
   who died in 1938 at the height of his fame (the fame
   has since been much reduced, alas)--this river was for
   many, in those years, a simile of the American experience.
   "The Hudson River is like .. the flames of color
   on the Palisades, elves' echoes, and old Dutch and Hallowe'en,"
   chanted Thomas Wolfe. "It is like the Phantom
   Horseman .. and great fires of the Dutchmen in winter
   time.... The Hudson River is like old October and tawny
   Indians in their camping places long ago ... It is like the
   Knickerbockers and ... the Rich Folks and the River People,
   the Vanderbilts, the Astors, and the Roosevelts ..."
   Nor was the river only simile, even in Thomas Wolfe's
   feverish and decidedly unphilosophic mind. It was also
   symbol and metaphor-a symbol of destiny, a metaphor
   for history. (286-87) (ellipses in original)

After thoughts by Davis about time and eternity, and the river drinking the pastoral land (which is all very Wolfean-sounding), he writes:

Thus the symbolic, metaphorical river suggested by Wolfe's poetic imagination. …

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