Academic journal article Thomas Wolfe Review

And So It Goes

Academic journal article Thomas Wolfe Review

And So It Goes

Article excerpt

Kurt Vonnegut's appreciation of Wolfe's work has been well covered in this journal (see, for example, the 2010 issue [74] and the fall 1979 issue [8]). But we have now learned that (1) Vonnegut thought Wolfe was "dead right"; (2) he tried to help Matthew Bruccoli find a job--and politely declined to sell his manuscripts to Bruccoli; (3) he was once--to paraphrase only slightly--scared shitless in Germany (decades after he had witnessed the horrors of Dresden in World War II); and (4) he believed that Wolfe had a developmental advantage usually available only to women writers. Read on ...

Last year an entry in "Notes" (203) reported on the comment of Vonnegut biographer Charles J. Shields that Vonnegut's 1954 trip from Cape Cod to Indiana, where he had a contentious visit with his father, led him to appreciate Wolfe's title You Can't Go Home Again. (The "Notes" entry

erroneously gives the date of the trip as 1955.) Now, thanks to Dan Wakefield, editor of Kurt Vonnegut: Letters (Delacorte, 2012), we have the text of the letter cited by Shields. Written to Harry Brague, an editor at Scribner's, the 30 November 1954 letter begins, "I just got back from a visit with my father. Thomas Wolfe was dead right" (59). Wakefield has added italicized headnotes to several of the letters, and for this one he explains, " Thomas Wolfe wrote You Can't Go Home Again" (59).

Wakefield also provides a helpful note for Vonnegut's 22 April 1968 letter to literary critic and theorist Robert Scholes, who was at the University of Iowa at the time. Vonnegut tells Scholes, "I keep meeting guys who knew you at Virginia. Matt Bruccoli, for instance." He says that Bruccoli recently submitted his resignation at Ohio State because "the place so enrages him" and despite his being "obviously highly regarded" there. So now Bruccoli is "looking for work," and Vonnegut asks, "Could Iowa use him?" He also reveals that Bruccoli tried to buy "all my manuscripts," offering "mountains of money" for them. Vonnegut declined, telling Scholes that "I'll just leave the stuff to my kids" (142-43). Wakefield's headnote to this letter explains, "Matthew J. Bruccoli was a scholar who wrote or edited more than fifty books on writers of the 1920s and 1930s, including Hemingway, Fitzgerald, John OHara, and Thomas Wolfe" (142). …

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