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Thomas Wolfe, Asheville’s Literary Son

Two famous authors have similar names: Thomas Wolfe and Tom Wolfe, but the one whose house is in Asheville, North Carolina, is Thomas Wolfe (1900-1938), author of the classic Look, Homeward Angel. This dark story, published in 1929, is complex — the kind of book to read in small chunks in order to give it the the reflection the masterpiece deserves.

Thomas Wolfe Memorial State Historic House

The Thomas Wolfe Memorial State Historic Site at 52 north Market Street in downtown Asheville memorializes the writer’s life in his hometown, and its website offers activities for kids. It also has a very active and popular Facebook page. (The Asheville population is approximately 92,000, which is about twice the number of residents in the author’s day.)

Back in the day, the Asheville community recognized some of its citizens as characters in his book and were not happy with their characterization. According to wolfememorial.com, “The truth was that over two hundred characters were based upon living people, many living citizens of Asheville, including his family. Their personal flaws and failures were exposed for the world to see. Asheville was shocked, as was his family. The violent reaction in his hometown to his work resulted in a self-imposed exile from Asheville for the next eight years.”

The “Genius” Film

“Genius” is a critically acclaimed 2016 feature film about the relationship between Thomas Wolfe and editor Maxwell Perkins. You can read the New York Times review of it here: Genius. Its all-star cast included Colin Firth, Jude Law, and Nicole Kidman.

“The reason a writer writes a book is to forget a book and the reason a reader reads one is to remember it.” — Thomas Wolfe

The Thomas Wolfe House is the eighth stop on our North Carolina Author Adventures Trail.

Patricia Smart