‘What of a state’ that refuses to accept fair criticism?

“[I am] pained at the implication in your letter that I was ashamed of North Carolina — only what is N.C. willing to do for me? I don’t think there is a place there now for anyone who cares for anything besides Rotary and Lions and Boosters Clubs, real-estate speculation, ‘heap much’ money, social fawning, good roads, new mills — what, in a word, they choose to call ‘Progress, Progress, Progress.’.…

“N.C. needs honest criticism — rather than the false, shallow ‘we-are-the-finest-state-and-greatest-people-in-the-country’ kind of thing. An artist who refuses to accept fair criticism of his work will never go far. What of a state?.…”

— From Thomas Wolfe’s letter to his mother, Julia, on April 21, 1924. Excerpted in “Thomas Wolfe v. the state of North Carolina, 1924” by Thomas Calder in Mountain Xpress (July 19, 2016).

Wolfe, 23, had just begun teaching at New York University.  It would be another five years before publication of “Look Homeward, Angel.”

 

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