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Look Homeward, Angel Paperback – October 10, 2006

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Editorial Reviews


“In 1949, when I was sixteen, I stumbled on Thomas Wolfe, who died at thirty-eight in 1938, and who made numerous adolescents aside from me devotees of literature for life.  In Wolfe, everything was heroically outsized, whether it was the voracious appetite for experience of Eugene Gant, the hero of his first two novels, or of George Webber, the hero of his last two. The hero's loneliness, his egocentrism, his sprawling consciousness gave rise to a tone of elegiac lyricism that was endlessly sustained by the raw yearning for an epic existence—for an epic American existence. And, in those postwar years, what imaginative young reader didn't yearn for that?” (Philip Roth)

"Language as rich and ambitious and intensely American as any of our novelists has ever accomplished." -- Charles Frazier, author of Cold Mountain and Thirteen Moons

"Look Homeward, Angel is one of the most important novels of my life. . . . It's a wonderful story for any young person burning with literary ambition, but it also speaks to the longings of our whole lives; I'm still moved by Wolfe's ability to convey the human appetite for understanding and experience." -- Elizabeth Kostova, author of The Historian

"Wolfe made it possible to believe that the stuff of life, with all its awe and mystery and magic, could by some strange alchemy be transmuted to the page." -- William Gay, author of The Long Home

"As so many other American boys had before and have since, I discovered a version of myself in Look Homeward, Angel, and I became intoxicated with the elevated, poetic prose." -- Robert Morgan, author of Gap Creek

From the Publisher

Look Homeward, Angel is an elaborate and moving coming-of-age story about Eugene Gant, a restless and energetic character whose passion to experience life takes him from his small, rural hometown in North Carolina to Harvard University and the city of Boston. The novel's pattern is artfully simple -- a small town, a large family, high school and college -- yet the characters are monumental in their graphic individuality and personality.

Through his rich, ornate prose, Wolfe evokes the extraordinarily vivid family of the Gants, and with equal detail, the remarkable peculiarities of small-town life and the pain and upheaval of a boy who must leave both. A classic work of American literature, Look Homeward, Angel is a passionate, stirring, and unforgettable novel.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; First Trade Paperback edition (October 10, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743297318
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743297318
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (165 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #47,278 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

The plot was not interesting, nor were the characters.
Sure the whole point of the book is nostalgia but it gets too weepy for my tastes.
The language and word pictures and characters are unforgettable.
Ron Vaughn

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

240 of 252 people found the following review helpful By Mark Shanks VINE VOICE on February 17, 2000
Format: Paperback
I feel sorry for anyone who can't find echoes of their own youth in Wolfe's undeniably Romantic writing. You won't find clipped Hemingway-esque sentences, nor the pages-long obscure wanderings of fellow Southerner Faulkner, but Wolfe recreates his world so perfectly that filming it would be redundant. "Self-absorbed"? Yes, how else could anyone produce a literary translation of a life's experience? Cliched? Not when it was written, although as a "coming of age" novel it has many predecessors, none were so ambitious in scope or detail. Achingly, achingly nostalgic, beautifully written, TRUE to itself, sparing nothing of the author or his vision. Pretentious? Hardly, especially when set next to the Oprah-fied books on the best-seller lists today. This and its immediate succesor "Of Time and the River" are, to me, arguably the finest books ever written describing not just life in America but more importantly the sense of loss through time and distance of love, family, and home and the emotional maturation that follows.
No, I couldn't recommend this to EVERYbody, but if you haven't become too sophisticated to remember what it was really like to be young, lonely, in love, or homesick, or to see though a child's eyes the wonder in a leaf, a stone, a door; to cry "Oh, lost!" over a memory, you will find much to cherish in this book.
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75 of 78 people found the following review helpful By Maginot on March 23, 2000
Format: Paperback
"Look Homeward Angel" is undeniably a young man's story and as such, I wonder if it appeals to men more than it does to women. It's hard to imagine how the novel's countless aches and awkward blunders would fail to resonate with any man's youthful recollections. When readers in Woolfe's hometown castigated him for his venial characterization of the people he grew up with, Woolfe pointed out that none of his characters represented any one particular person. Instead, their qualities were so real and so vivid that readers felt they instantly recognized them. And so it was with me, although I was born decades after Woolfe's death and raised in a different part of the country. The dialog, drama, and emotional undercurrents of "Look Homeward Angel" were strangely and overwhelmingly recognizable. This is the genius of Woolfe.
My favorite parts of the novel vary considerably. I love the prose poem in the very beginning of the book. I also love the protagonist's descriptions of seemingly ordinary activities such as walking through a pasture on a fall evening. Such passages have the unnerving quality of being accessible yet somehow ineffable. A part of you is walking through the field with Eugene Gant taking in the cold wind, the smells of smoke and cow manure under the grim sky. Another part of you is asking why that experience feels so real and immediate even though you've never had it before.
Woolfe took a microscope to ordinary people and somehow rendered them great. He did not accord them the stature of epoch heroes or contemporary celebrities. Instead, he rendered their feelings and actions as immediate as their surroundings.
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46 of 48 people found the following review helpful By David Riordon on May 18, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I loved it in 1968 as a college freshman and I love it today as a 52 year old prose lover, ex-hippie, and wage slave. While discussing the book with a classmate in college thirty years ago, He dissed Wolfe by saying that his writing was pretentious. I got seriously upset and wanted to slug him. Enamored I was and still am. After a hard day at work, you may not do better than get lost in the hill country of North Carolina. The characters are so real that you will be saying to your spouse or significant other, "Hey sweetie, listen to this" as you read passages of what seem to be your life. The book takes us places that we can see and feel. Intellectual? yes. Soulful? Hell yes! Settle in and read maybe twenty pages a day. You will be moved.
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61 of 69 people found the following review helpful By H. F. Corbin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 17, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I was much taken with LOOK HOMEWARD, ANGEL when I read it as a young man, particularly the chapter on the death of Ben Gant. It was one of the most moving things I had read at the time and I never forgot it. With more years behind me than in front of me, I was curious to see what effect this novel would have on me on a rereading. I found this tome this time to be long, wordy, at times bombastic, with far too many "O Lost's." Mr. Wolfe never misses an opportunity to do long lists, often sounding like Walt Whitman on a bad day. And why on earth would he name Chapel Hill, North Carolina "Pulpit Hill" in the novel?

On the other hand, sometimes Wolfe writes pure poetry; and the novel pulses with life. He has captured a town (Asheville, North Carolina early in the 20th Century) with all its prejudices, idiosyncrasies but hopes as well and has created a family we will never forgot, the Gants. Anyone who knows anything about Thomas Wolfe understands that they are a thinly veiled version of his own family: the bigger-than-life patriarch of the family Gant who has bouts with the bottle; his wife Eliza, obsessed with making a dime at whatever cost; and their children-- Daisy, Helen, the sailor Luke, the twins Grover and Ben and Eugene, based on Wolfe, himself. These characters are as much of the literary history of the United States as Willie Loman, Rabbit Angstrom, the Compson family et al.

Yes, Wolfe's account of the death of Ben Gant at the age of 26 of double pneumonia will tear your heart out. After the Gant family members have spent excruciating days at his deathbed, Eugene has this beautiful words: "We can believe in the nothingness of life, we can believe in the nothingness of death and of life after death--but who can believe in the nothingness of Ben?
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