In Thomas Wolfe Interviewed, 1929–1938, Aldo P. Magi and Richard Walser have brought together twenty-five accounts of Thomas Wolfe talking to the press—ranging from the first interview he gave, a conversation with a student journalist for New York University’s Daily News, to the last, an interview with the Portland Sunday Oregonian in July 1938, only a few months before his death.
These encounters with the working press have an appealing intimacy rarely found in biographies or scholarly studies. Wolfe, always happy to meet with journalists, was ever ready to talk about the writing ofLook Homeward, Angel, about Scribner’s acceptance of the manuscript, and about the book’s popular reception. “As my book began to grow before me, a wild sense of exultation and joyous elation seized me,” he told an interviewer for the Rocky Mountain News. Walking along New York’s Fifth Avenue with another interviewer just after Look Homeward, Angel’s appearance, Wolfe spotted a copy prominently displayed in a bookstore window and proudly pointed it out. “His eyes came away from the window unwillingly,” the reporter noted. Nor did Wolfe shy away from addressing the outrage his first novel occasioned in his hometown. “If they think I have intended to case reflections on my old home and my own people they have gone far wrong,” he told an interviewer for the Asheville Times.
Wolfe talked about his southern upbringing, his education, his frequent trips to Europe, and his life in New York. He enjoyed discussing his favorite authors and books, as well as what he himself planned to write in the future. Wolfe had tremendous faith in America’s ability to produce a great national literature.
Headnotes and afterwords place each interview in perspective, heightening the reader’s grasp of the varied situations in which Wolfe met with reporters. In some instances, the interviewers themselves reflect on their meetings with Wolfe. For these interviews the journalists had no tape recorders and did not conduct the sort of length, in-depth interviews that have now become common. The interviews are, instead, often the products of several hours of questioning, put together from jotted down notes and from the reporters’ memories. Since most of these interviews have been buried in newspaper archives for decades, even veteran Wolfe scholars will find much here that is fresh and useful.
Aldo P. Magi’s library of secondary Thomas Wolfe materials, numbering more than three thousand items, is recognized as the largest private collection of its kind in the world. He is associate editor of the Thomas Wolfe Review and is a trustee of the Tomas Wolfe Society.
Found an Error? Tell us about it.