Thomas Wolfe was one of the great American classic writers of all times, a novelist who perfected the ability of combining impressionistic prose with autobiographical fiction. While he is considered to be North Carolina's most famous writer, I like to remind people that O. Henry (William Sidney Porter) was just as famous and born in Greensboro, North Carolina, a generation earlier.
|Thomas Wolfe House, Asheville, NC|
While he also wrote a few plays, Wolfe was unable to sell them due to their extreme length. His writing was more appropriate to the length of novels. He traveled to New York where he tried to sell some of his plays to Broadway and later settled on a position teaching English at New York University. He traveled abroad to Europe, where he continued writing on his journeys through England, France, Italy and Switzerland.
Wolfe wrote an autobiographical novel entitled O. Lost. It was based on his hometown of Asheville, although he changed the town's name to Altamont. Several of the characters were loosely based on true-life people, including family, friends and boarders who lived at his mother's boarding house. Even though he changed their names in the book, many of the people did not appreciate how they were portrayed in the novel when it was released in its final version as Look Homeward, Angel. The novel caused an uproar in Asheville, and as a result, Wolfe chose to stay away from his hometown for the next eight years.
Once Wolfe's second novel was published as The October Fair, the people of Asheville were upset that they were not included, an ironic twist after their reaction from his portrayal of them in his first book. After Wolfe passed away, two more books were discovered among his written works. They were edited and published after his death.