Thomas Wolfe … the naked truth!

Thomas Wolfe … the naked truth!

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Thomas Wolfe (1900 ~ 1938) was an American novelist.
He wrote four novels, plus many short stories, dramatic works, and novellas. His books, written and published from the 1920s to the 1940s, vividly reflect on American culture and he became widely known during his own lifetime. After Wolfe’s death, his contemporary William Faulkner said that Wolfe may have had the best talent of their generation. Some of his more famous works include Look Homeward, Angel (1929) and Of Time and the River (1935). He saw less than half of his work published in his lifetime, there being much unpublished material remaining after his death. He was the first American writer to leave two complete, unpublished novels in the hands of his publisher at death. They were both edited and published posthumously.

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Thomas Wolfe was over 6 foot 8 inches tall. His hands were large, and he had a callus worn on one of his fingers from clutching his pencil to handwrite his manuscripts. Wolfe did not use a typewriter. Every word he wrote was written in longhand. He owned a typewriter but did not use it. He favoured pencils over pens. He used ledger books to write in while working on his first novel. 

Wolfe typically began writing around midnight, priming himself with awesome quantities of tea and coffee. Since he could never find a chair or a table that was totally suitable for a man of his height, he usually wrote standing up, using the top of his refrigerator as his desk. He would keep at it until dawn. Then he would have a drink and sleep until around 11.00. In the late morning he would begin another stretch of work, sometimes aided by a typist who would arrive to find the previous night’s pages scattered all over the kitchen floor.

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There is another aspect to his routine which helps to explain the title of this post. The story goes that one evening, in 1930, he decided to give up on an uninspired hour of work and get undressed for bed. But, standing naked at his hotel-room window, Wolfe found that his weariness had suddenly evaporated and that he was eager to write again. He tried to figure out what had prompted this change and he realised that, at the window, he had been unconsciously fondling himself. This fostered such a good male feeling that it stoked his creative energies. He then regularly used this method to inspire his writing sessions. I wonder if this method has a name. Answers on a postcard please!

Author information website

Reference: Daily Rituals (Currey)

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3 responses to “Thomas Wolfe … the naked truth!

  1. What an incredibly interesting chap! I really feel for him, having so many works unpublished upon his death. It seems he feels for himself, too. Interesting technique for combating writer’s block, I’ve made a note.

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