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86 of 88 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon September 27, 2003
Thomas Wolfe's book "You Can't Go Home Again" is undeniably an immortal American classic. What is truly impressive and unique about Wolfe's writing is not only the intuitive incisiveness with which he articulates human thought and emotion; but just as astonishing, is his ability to articulate these things with utter and precise clarity.
There is not one sentence in his book that does not make total sense upon first reading. If it seems not to, it is only because the reader has skipped a line. With a vocabulary that is vast, but which he uses with unique precision, Wolfe tells the story of George Webber, a writer, who is in essence, Thomas Wolfe, the writer. Wolfe ultimately sees himself as an artist that is an observer of human thought and action. But in addition, one that has an obligation to do what one can, to stamp out ugliness, violence, injustice, inhumanity, and so many other wrongs that rear their heads in society from time to time.
Yet, even with this extraordinary brilliance, clarity, and understanding of the human condition, like all great writers and great artists, he leaves the reader with a question. If clearly, it is his understanding of his personal duty, his personal philosophy to work to do what one can do, to end injustice, then why, is he, personally, always running away? As the book is a picture of one always on the move, always observing people, always changing venue, but wisely with great proficiency and efficacy, storing these experiences away as he seeks his understanding of the human condition; he is constantly yet on the move. And so, how does one work to stamp out injustice, if one is always running from the place he is at, and believes "He can't go home again?" This then becomes the challenge to the reader as well. And thus, the questions of the "meaning of life" are never fully answered. How really could they be?
For those who wish to see an example of one man try to find those answers, with the clearest articulation I have ever seen in any book, one should read Wolfe's book as soon as possible. It reads moderately quickly, due to Wolfe's amazing clarity. And it does articulate many of the answers to many of the questions that all thinking people ask themselves as they go through life.
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68 of 69 people found the following review helpful
on October 5, 2000
I've been reading these other reviews and I've come to the conclusion that most of these folks just don't GET Wolfe. They keep talking about this being "wordy" and "drawn-out". Hello..Thomas Wolfe could write three pages about a man staring out of a window and have me in tears, contemplating the meaning of life. He's rarely about the story. He's always about the beauty of the moment. For sheer power of description and fearless romantic vision no one has come close to Thomas Wolfe.
No one moves me like he does.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on October 13, 2000
Wolfe weaves, very deliberately, in and out of images and situations from his own lost generation in this, his last novel, largely autobiographical. He was the most lyrical writer of his time, this book no exception, and although at times it's obvious he struggled with structure, Wolfe gives the reader the unique ability to truly understand each of his characters as multi-dimensional and on numerous levels. There's a bit of George Weber in all of us, searching for something we know we've either lost or never found, times when we feel alone, and the world is so large. If you've ever read Fitzgerald, you will enjoy this novel, and even if you haven't, you should. It's a timeless classic, with a theme so prevaliant in literature and society even today, and stated so clearly in the title.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on September 18, 2003
"You Can't Go Home, Again" is really not so much a work of fiction as an autobiography in which the names of characters have been changed. Wolfe seemed unapologetic about the baldly autobiographical nature of his work. However, some may perceive his autobiography as evidence of a certain lack of creative reach and an aversion to creative risk-taking on his part. Wolfe's life was so deeply and richly lived in a relatively short period and so lyrically written that his autobiography reads as vibrantly as fiction. There are moments when Wolfe is brilliant and dazzling in describing moments of almost biblical epiphany. I suppose it's a good thing for Wolfe that he dove so deeply into his own life as it was tragically brief but intensely experienced and elegantly articulated: he managed to cram a great deal into his short lifespan. Wolfe reads quite a bit like Proust and in this novel the sentences in some places are nearly as long as the syntax of Proust. Wolfe could well be considered the Proust of the American South. Writers will especially value this work and it pays to read to the end as Wolfe's last novel is particularly revealing in its power and optimism and lyricism at its close: "What befalls man is a tragic lot. There is no denying this in the final end. But we must deny it all along the way. Mankind was fashioned for eternity." In the end Wolfe finds a comfortable home upon a promontory point in America's literary landscape. To understand the life of the writer in America at the outset of the 20th century during a Golden Age for the novel I recommend this worthy and enduring gem of that era.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on December 14, 2005
Before you read "You Can't Go Home Again," make sure you have read "Look Homeward Angel." Wolfe's novels are essentially romanticized autobiographies, and although Eugene Gant and George Weber are not exactly the same character, they both represent the author struggling with incredible but unfocused talent, trying to find his home in a world that is inhospitable to his genius. If you are at all the creative type, these books will resonate profoundly. If not, you might find them a little contrived. If you are *Southern*, you absolutely *must* read these books.

It's honestly difficult to do justice to Wolfe's poetry with a simple review, but I can say that no Southern author even approaches his writing ability, save Faulkner. These two books form the literary pillars of my creative ego; they are at once tragically self-conscious and fervently optimistic. It's such a shame that Wolfe died young as he did.

A final note--before reading the chapters about the party in New York, look up the artists Alexander Calder and Joan Miró. You'll find that an otherwise hilarious scene is actually a scathing satire of contemporary art. If you at all share his sentiments, you'll have trouble staying in your chair.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on March 19, 1999
After reading Look Homeward Angel, I became enthralled by Thomas Wolfe's verbose use of the English language. I set out to discover another tittle by the famed North Carolina author. At first, I found the sure depth of You Can't Go Home Again daunting. But as I began to explore the pages that lie within, I found myself becomming increasingly drawn to Wolfe's new found literary style. It seemed that age had found him closer than ever to the ultimate perfection of his craft. The impurities of his first novels, which could easily be seen as the product of his feverish insecurities, have been all but erased. He takes the reader further into the heart of the English Language, than any other author of my experiences. Each sentence seems to leap forth from the page with true vigor and color. You feel as if you are being led through an elaborate tour, which spans the distance of the globe, while diving into the churning bowels of literature's purest potential. It does however, lack the keenly crafted story lines of today's market. It is obvious that Wolfe has taken little heed in fufilling the alleged requirements set by authors before his time. Instead the style that accompanies him throughout his domestic and foreign travels, and throughout the heart of his most rewarding and demanding personal relationships, is something wholly his own. It must be read to grasp, for its many pages span a plethro of subjects. It is for the reader who is looking for a work of art, which is true to the authors most profound, honest, and concise emmotions.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on July 25, 2000
What happens when you write a book that is so autobiographical that you not only alienate your entire hometown, but earn their hatred? "You Can't Go Home Again" is a very poignant tale that captures America between the time of the stock market crash of 1929 and the rumblings of WW2. Though the book drags out at times (an insufferable cocktail party seems to consume almost three chapters!), the excellent writing makes it all worthwhile.
As one who did not experience the Great Depression and the rise of Nazi Germany firsthand, this book brought me closer to it than any history book could because these events were seen from the vantage point of ordinary people. The writer (George Webber) pens a successful novel about his hometown that so accurately portrays the scandalous activities of his townfolk that he becomes persona non grata. Shunned by his family and friends, he has a choice to make: Stay with his rich lover and her high-society friends in New York or make his own path in the world while retaining his artistic ability.
His travels take him from Brooklyn to Europe, in particular, Germany where Adolph Hitler has taken power and he witnesses firsthand the disturbing changes that take place.
The character development and fine prose more than compensate for the slow moving plot lines (which is why I gave it four stars instead of five). This is a good book for lazy summer reading. Not a book to rush or skim through. I was fascinated by the attention given to developing minor characters such as the Oriental sculptor neighbor or the friend from back home who was at the tail end of a professional baseball career. You will learn a lot about how ordinary people dealt with the Depression or the rise of the Nazis. You will see the sad but hopeful plight of Americans during the Depression and also the hopelessness that good people had in Germany when Adolph Hitler seized power. I look forward to reading more from Thomas Wolfe.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on July 25, 2000
This is the fourth, and last, of Wolfe's novels - which together make up a chronological account of his life, and the lives of his friends and his family, although all under pseudonyms. They were the only novels he ever wrote, and are all an utter delight to read. They can be read separately, they don't really work as a series in the proper sense of the word - but once you get hooked on Wolfe, you'll want to read them all. "You Can't go Home Again" is his best, in my opinion, and consists of several anecdotes, or short stories, which together make up a beautifully written, heart-achingly fine novel. This is the kind of stuff to make you want to run out on the street and tell people you love them. Passionately recommended. Check out the three preceeding novels, "Look Homeward, Angel", "Of Time and the River" and "The Web and the Rock".
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on June 1, 1998
Thomas Wolfe was not a good novelist, but he was a GREAT writer. As I tell my American History students, no one ever put words together in the English language more beautifully than Wolfe. I've read through - at times skimmed through - all of his books. This is the only one I found interesting as a novel. BUT the prose-poetry which pervades everything he wrote is so extraordinary as to be heartbreaking. One reads and reads, and suddenly one encounters the most breathtaking passage, and then another, and another. In You Can't Go Home Again, the eloquence comes on virtually every page. And the conclusion, with Wolfe's paean to his former editor, Maxwell Perkins, and his reflections on our America, is overwhelming.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on July 12, 2000
To put it simply, You Can't Go Home Again is one of the best books I have read in my life. Wolfe writes with a beautiful, haunting and musical prose. The journey taken by George Webber, the book's protagonist, is that same journey that we all make. To create and grow and move forward cannot be done without moving away from one's past. The story of George Webber is the trunk of the book, off of which grow many different branches each of which reveal more and different things about Webber and his world. I cannot recommend this book enough, A classic for all times.
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