When Do the Atrocities Begin?
In 1937, after years of living alone in New York City, a manic-depressive Thomas Wolfe returned to his family and his native Asheville, North Carolina, a city he had both ridiculed and brought notoriety to through his novel, Look Homeward, Angel, eight years earlier. Concerned about lingering resentment from the community over the literary work and his tenuous relationship with his family members, Wolfe returned to his hometown with caution, but also with the need to both rejuvenate and compile material for his next novel. It is this visit that sparks Wolfe’s trademark conclusion, “You can’t go home again.” During 1937 and 1938, Thomas Wolfe experienced extreme highs and lows as he labored furiously to produce his next work. Joanne Marshall Mauldin provides an in-depth look at those final two years in the life of the brilliant, yet troubled writer in Thomas Wolfe: When Do the Atrocities Begin?
By adding new information and insight, Mauldin challenges much of the existing biographical material on the writer and offers a fresh view on the final years of his life. Through the utilization of primary and secondary sources including letters, interviews, recordings, and newspaper clippings, Mauldin offers a candid account of the life of Thomas Wolfe from the time of his visit to North Carolina in 1937 until his untimely death in 1938. Mauldin chronicles details of Wolfe’s shocking change in publishers and his complex relationships with his editors, family, friends, and his mistress. This examination goes beyond Wolfe’s life and extends into the period after his death, revealing details about the reaction of family and friends to the passing of this literary legend, as well as the cavalier publishing practices of his posthumous editors.
Mauldin’s narrative is unique from other biographical accounts of Thomas Wolfe in that it focuses solely on the final years in the life of the author. Her unbiased approach enables the reader to draw his or her own conclusions about Wolfe and his actions and state of mind during these last two years of his life.