With Look Homeward, Angel, Thomas Wolfe introduced me to the Künstlerroman (German for “artist novel”), and I have been a huge fan of the genre ever since. Some of my favorite novels (eg, The Apprenticeship of Wilhelm Meister, The Way of All Flesh, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man) are of the Künstlerroman variety, and I even wrote one of my own.
The Künstlerroman is actually a subgenre of the Bildungsroman. A Bildungsroman is a coming-of-age story, that is, the story’s focus is on the psychological and moral growth of the main character from childhood to adulthood, with maturation as the goal. According to Wikipedia, “The genre often features a main conflict between the main character and society. Typically, the values of society are gradually accepted by the protagonist and he is ultimately accepted into society.”
When the Bildungsroman’s main character is an artist, the work is a Künstlerroman (Goethe’s The Apprenticeship of Wilhelm Meister is considered to be the first of its type). In other words, every Künstlerroman is a Bildungsroman, but not every Bildungsroman is a Künstlerroman.
Sometimes it’s difficult to tell the difference between a Bildungsroman and a Künstlerroman, as illustrated by the list that currently appears on Wikipedia’s Künstlerroman page, but that confusion disappears when you consider the fact that the “artist novel” is a sub-genre of the “coming-of-age novel” and not a separate genre altogether.
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.
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!