A few years ago my family and I visited the Thomas Wolfe Memorial, one of the settings of Look Homeward, Angel, Wolfe’s first novel and one of my favorite novels. The following is from the pamphlet:
Thomas Wolfe was perhaps the most overtly autobiographical of this nation’s major novelists. His boyhood in the boardinghouse at 48 Spruce Street colored his work and influenced the rest of his life. His reminiscences were so frank and realistic that Look Homeward, Angel was banned from Asheville’s public library for more than seven years. Today Wolfe is celebrated as one of Asheville’s most famous citizens, and his boyhood home has become a part of the nation’s literary history.
The many exhibits at the visitor center included Wolfe’s hat and Majestic Cabinet Radio (shown below), the folding sofa bed on which slept Julia Wolfe slept while visiting Wolfe in New York City, a ceiling medallion cast by W. O. Wolfe (Wolfe’s father owned a tombstone shop)—even artifacts obtained on excavating the large house’s cistern.
Also on display are items that Fred Wolfe recovered from the Chelsea Hotel at Wolfe’s death in 1938. These include Wolfe’s suit and the typewriter used by his typist as they worked on The Web and the Rock and You Can’t Go Home Again.
After our tour of the Wolfe home, we stopped briefly at the historic Riverside Cemetery, where Wolfe and his family are buried. William Sydney Porter, also known as O. Henry, is also buried there. On a separate literary note, it was also in Asheville that Zelda Fitzgerald (who once stayed at Julia Wolfe’s boardinghouse) perished in a fire at a mental hospital.
Here is an unenhanced audio sample from my novel, Pixels of Young Mueller, as read by the Kindle’s default male voice at normal speed (you can read along). As you can hear, the feature needs improving, but it would suffice if I preferred listening to books over reading them.
Sarah Crown posted an interesting bit in The Guardian’s books blog, “Is auto-fiction strictly a boys’ game?” The subject was the phenomenon of authors who insert a character bearing their name into their work. It turns out that a number of books—both new and not so new—have used this device, a fact that interested me greatly, as I used it in my novel, Pixels of Young Mueller. I have compiled this list of books from the article:
Jonathan Coe (The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim)
Damon Galgut (In a Strange Room)
Geoff Dyer (Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi)
Will Self (Will Self Walking to Hollywood)
Michel Houellebecq (La Carte et le Territoire)
Alberto Manguel (All Men Are Liars)
Philip Roth (Operation Shylock)
Jonathan Safran Foer (Everything is Illuminated)
E. L. Doctorow (World’s Fair)
Frederick Exley (A Fan’s Notes)
Vladimir Nabokov (Pnin)
Amelie Nothomb (Une forme de vie)
Gertrude Stein (Autobiography of Alice B Toklas)
Readers familiar with my novel know that its main character, Klaus Mueller, creates a fictional character named Jerry Schwartz. I knew that I could not have been the first to do this, but I was not aware of any specific instances in which it had been done. Fortunately, Sarah Crown has come to the rescue, and while I don’t agree with her use of “auto-fiction” to describe the literary device itself, I applaud her efforts.
Amazon customer Tony Parsons gave Pixels of Young Mueller 5 out of 5 stars, calling it “very well written” with “a lot of enlightening scenarios and a host of great characters,” a book that “could make a great movie or TV series.” Here’s the review:
Klaus Mueller dreams about leaving Southland someday to be a rock star. He chooses the so called glamorous lifestyle over college. He has lots/lots of setbacks: poor paying or unfit jobs, and his music is constantly being rejected.
Fast forward he moves to Chicago, IL he finds a career and becomes a father. Klaus is still not thoroughly happy with his current lifestyle.
It’s amazing since I have started reading regular people’s books instead of college textbooks how many others struggle besides musicians, such as writers and artists. 9 to 5 is that really what we want out of our life?
Cool book cover, great font and writing style. A very well written true to life book. It was very easy to read/follow and never a dull moment from start/finish. No grammar errors, repetitive or out of line sequence sentences. A lot of enlightening scenarios and a host of great characters. This could make a great movie or TV series. A book you must read to the end. No doubt in my mind a very easy rating of 5 stars for this book.
Pixels of Young Mueller is available at Amazon. Check it out!
It looks like another business trip to San Francisco later this year, and you know what that means—a visit to City Lights Bookstore. City Lights, the first all-paperbound bookshop in the country, was co-founded by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, whose A Coney Island of the Mind greatly influenced me in my early twenties. With any luck, I’ll run into Mr. Ferlinghetti himself.
I read fewer books this year than ever—and I thought last year was bad! Despite the fact that the reasons for this are really good ones, it is with slight embarrassment that I present this meager list of books I read in 2013:
The Zen of Social Media Marketing (Shama Kabani)
Coincidences (Maria Savva)
Databases Demystified, 2/e (Andy Oppel)
Burmese Days (George Orwell)
Next year can only be better. I’m in the middle of a huge book now and have started two others (all nonfiction), so I’m off to a good start.
Here are my top 10 favorite novels. Admittedly, language limitations have prevented me from reading several of these in the language in which they were originally written, but I list them here nevertheless, as I am no less in love with them as the result of having read translated versions. The list:
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (James Joyce)
The Way of All Flesh (Samuel Butler)
The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (Laurence Sterne)
Ulysses (James Joyce)
Don Quixote (Miguel de Cervantes)
Malone Dies (Samuel Beckett)
Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)