Monday, August 5, 2013

This story is a bit out of order, because I forgot that I had written it.
Look Homeward, Angel

We drove into Asheville, North Carolina and visited the Thomas Wolfe home. The receptionist showed a short insightful film on the life of Thomas Wolfe. The guide that gave us our tour was very knowledgeable about this writer and his family. The Wolfe family owned two homes in Asheville, one was the home place where William O. Wolfe, Thomas’ father did his stone cutting and a seventeen room home that Julia Elizabeth, Thomas’ mother, ran as a boarding house.
Julia added to the house after she bought it, the difference in the quality of the construction was apparent. She had the rooms added as frugally as she could. She wanted to make money, not spend it.
The house often held up to thirty guests, some having to share beds. One room called the “jail” was a narrow room with a single bed and a small dresser. There were three bathrooms and all the rooms had chamber pots.
To make more room in the dining area for paying customers, she had a small room barely big enough to hold a table and six chairs in which the family would eat. The dining room was spacious and had a hand carved, ornate mantle for the fireplace. The dining room held ten smaller tables. The dining room had to be reconstructed because an arsonist had thrown a Molotov cocktail through the dining room’s window and much of the original furnishings perished in the fire. The family helped to refurbish the house into nearly the original design, which included the fireplace mantle that had been destroyed.
The dining room was just off the enormous kitchen. Julia often got up at five a.m. and would work into the wee hours of the morning. The kitchen held two stoves; one coal and wood and the other gas. It had a long preparation table, a large pie safe, a liquor cabinet, and a corner for laundry with sinks and ironing. She would use bits and pieces of food to stretch the food budget and make croquettes. It was said she made the best croquettes in town.
She had electricity installed throughout the house for lighting. Three of the rooms she had constructed had walls of windows to allow for light and circulation of air. In one of Thomas’ Wolfe’s books he, as a young man, stepped out of one of the windows, onto a parapet to enter a girlfriend’s room.
Many of the oak tables and dressers hat tops that were of marble carved by W. O. Wolfe. They smooth and of various colors. W. O. had many books that he kept in glass fronted cupboards. He was a well read man. Often he would read the classics of Shakespeare to the children. On the mantle in his bedroom was an oval, gray marble frame he had carved holding the picture of Cynthia, his second wife, who died of tuberculosis.
Thomas Wolfe’s first book was Look Homeward, Angel. The book was an autobiography and gave insight to the secrets of his hometown and its citizens. It was actually banned from Asheville’s library for seven years.
It was said after the release of his second book. Of Time and the River, more people were upset that they hadn’t been characters in his books.
When Julia Wolfe was asked what did she think of her harsh portrayal in the book? She said, “Thomas just exaggerated to sell more books.”

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