A Wolfe at the door

This post was written by guest blogger Carrie Frye.

The big lit news in Asheville is that The Thomas Wolfe House reopens at the end of May. It’s been closed since a disastrous arson in 1998.

It’s funny to live in a city whose geography and culture are so entwined with a classic novel, even funnier when that classic isn’t read half as much as it used to be. More on that later perhaps. In the meantime, as The Elegant Variation has pointed out, the prospect of tapping out endless permutations of “You Can Go Home Again” is quickening the pulse of headline writers everywhere (finally, a replacement for”Lost in Translation”!).

Here’s one thing the stories never seem to mention, though: Thomas Wolfe hated the Thomas Wolfe House. His mother bought the Old Kentucky Home as a boardinghouse — it’s called “Dixieland” in Look Homeward, Angel — when he was 12 or so. She and young Wolfe moved in, while his father stayed in the family’s old home a few streets away with the rest of Wolfe’s brothers and sisters.

The house represented a fissure in the family. In Look Homeward, Angel, the father rants at the mother: “It was a bitter day for us all when your gloating eyes first fell upon this damnable, this awful, this murderous and bloody Barn.” For himself, Wolfe’s stand-in, Eugene, refers to the house as a “chilly tomb” and is ashamed of the place.

So just because you can go home again, doesn’t mean you’ll like it.

Mr. Tingle and I took some pictures of the “bloody Barn” yesterday that we’ll try to post later.


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