Literary ignoramus that I am, I had no idea there were two Thomas Wolfes.
I’m familiar with the American novelist, Tom Wolfe, author of Bonfire of the Vanities, currently lurking on my TBR shelf.
But the other TW? I had no idea, until I watched the movie Genius, last night, featuring talented Colin Firth as the editor Maxwell Perkins, he of saintly patience and forbearance, the brave editor who took a chance and published unknown novelist Thomas Wolfe’s first novel Look Homeward Angel : A story of a Buried Life. After a long and torturous editing process, Scribner published the novel in 1929, to wide acclaim.
Jude Law plays the part of the ebullient Thomas Wolfe, giving a vivid portrayal of a writer driven by the creative urge, in all its power and destructiveness. Having watched the film, I recognise the origins of the stereotype of writers as hard drinking, hard living, driven to excess both in life and in their work. Contemporary writers F Scott Fitzgerald, and Ernest Hemingway both appear in the movie.
Of course we all know about Hemingway’s larger than life macho posturing, but I now realise there were others in the same era, acting out their own considerable dramas. It seems to me that the 1920s/30s flamboyant writers are a now-extinct species. Watching, current writers being interviewed on BBC Hay Fest literary doccies, they’re all frightfully well behaved!
Colin Firth gives a marvellous, restrained performance as Maxwell Perkins . Despite bad reviews, which I read later on Wikipedia, I was spellbound. Because I’m a bookish viewer, I enjoyed the low key, semi-monotone style. I wonder if other bookish bloggers have seen the film and how they reacted to it?
Maybe later in the month I might get around to Tom Wolfe II and his Bonfire. I’m currently working through a doorstop of a book by another American writer, Johnathan Safran Foer’s Here I Am. More on this topic in another post.