David Herbert Donald is an expert on Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War. What in the world is he doing writing a book on the tormented North Carolina novelist Thomas Wolfe? Yet Donald pulls it off wonderfully, recreating Wolfe's troubled life and capturing his creative process. Only two of Wolfe's novels were published in his short life but Donald is perhaps at his best when he examines his subject's unpublished works as well as two posthumous novels assembled by an editor. Donald may not convince you that Wolfe was a great American writer but he may just convince you that you may not know the real Thomas Wolfe. While not the most scholarly of works, Donald's biography is vivid and captures a larger than life figure (in more ways than one) and his epic vision of America and art. This is one of the best biographies of a major American writer and, best of all, it is very accessible and readable.
Did you know that F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway all had the same editor at Charles Scribner's and Sons: Maxwell Perkins. Some critics have said that Perkins basically wrote Tom Wolfe's last novel because it was a too-long mess that needed to be edited into a cohesive whole. I read halfway through "Look HomeWard Angel" and "Of Time and the River". Both read like a hot day in Asheville, North Carolina. When I have time I plan to go back and reread these novels because Shelby Foote and Walker Percy spoke highly of them.