Kerouac’s adoration of Wolfe didn’t travel well

“Today Thomas Wolfe has largely fallen out of fashion, but to read him in the 1940s was a rite of passage for the sensitive young person, who found in the story of Eugene Gant all the loneliness, rage and yearning of American adolescence….

“As soon as he started reading Wolfe, Jack [Kerouac] was certain he had actually seen him with his own eyes on his own first walk across the Brooklyn Bridge in 1937. Whether or not this was the case, Wolfe would become an almost palpable presence in Jack’s imagination…. He would look to Wolfe when measuring his own achievement and defend him fiercely from detractors with more modernist tastes….

“[In 1944] he made a pilgrimage to Asheville, North Carolina, where by chance he met Thomas Wolfe’s brother [Fred?]. Jack later remembered little about this trip, which suggests that he may have been drinking heavily all through it. In his diary, he noted only that he had his fill of the Southland.”

— From “The Voice is All: The Lonely Victory of Jack Kerouac” by Joyce Johnson (2012)


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