How Thomas Wolfe and Robert Raynolds happened to meet, how they became friends, how their friendship grew, survived a crisis, and continued until the death of Thomas Wolfe.
This is a story that no one else could tell. It tells how Thomas Wolfe and Robert Raynolds happened to meet, how they became friends, and how their friendship grew, survived a crisis, and continued until the death of Thomas Wolfe.
"We met in the city," says Raynolds, "but Tom and I were both mountain-born and small-town bred; we were more at home with cows and rattlesnakes than with subways and city slickers, and we were very much at home with one another."
The story is told with understanding, with humor, and with compassion. Robert Raynolds began writing it in 1942—four years after the death of his friend and companion novelist—and finished it twenty-three years later, in 1965. It is a responsible and considered memoir in honor of human friendship, and it brings the vivid character of Thomas Wolfe directly into the presence of the reader.
The story is full of daily portraits of Thomas Wolfe. What did he look like in his room, pacing the floor, or writing? How did he appear on the streets of Brooklyn or Manhattan, day or night? Or walking in the morning in a pine forest, or running his hand gently over a block of marble in an abandoned quarry, or tramping fields of snow after midnight? What was it like to eat with him at night in New York, or at noon in a Vermont farmhouse, or at breakfast in a home made lively by the laughter and play of children?
He was shy. "Why don't you find me a nice little wife?" he would ask Mrs. Raynolds. He was emotional, often speaking in the style of his writing: "And the whistle-wail of the great train. . ." He was profound, brooding after his break with his first publishers: could a man who had left a friend as he had left Maxwell Perkins ever be a "righteous man" again? This is a story of the plain and real Thomas Wolfe, of his human goodness, his bone-deep weariness in labor, his sudden joy in being understood and loved by a fellow man. And this is the story of how Robert Raynolds honored the grace of being a friend of Thomas Wolfe.
- 1. “Watch for the Name of Thomas Wolfe!”
- 2. The Legend and the Man
- 3. Heaving His Troubled Tongue
- 4. The Web of Earth
- 5. The Lost Boy
- 6. A Psychic Disturbance
- 7. Mountain Journey
- 8. The Crisis
- 9. The Mottled Sky
- 10. Repeated Pleasure
- 11. Thomas Wolfe and Maxwell Perkins—Men of High Order
- 12. A Good Man: End and Eternal