The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Thursday March 30th

Author's College Years Mischievous, Inspiring

Before Thomas Wolfe was regarded as one of the greatest writers of the 20th century, the Asheville native was chasing skirts and packing his days with club meetings at UNC.

Wolfe, the author of "Look Homeward, Angel," unwillingly came to UNC when he was just 15. Wolfe had wanted to attend Princeton, but the cost was too great, wrote Richard Walser in his biography, titled "Thomas Wolfe Undergraduate."

Wolfe chose UNC over going to work, and this week's activities honoring his 100th birthday indicate that the University is glad he did.

At UNC, Wolfe participated in activities ranging from acting for the Carolina Playmakers to editing the Tar Heel, the weekly campus newspaper.

Walser portrayed Wolfe as a typical undergraduate. He never did laundry, instead buying new clothes when the dirty ones became unbearable. He hated the cafeteria food and declared that the pancakes felt "'like lead to the stomach.'"

According to Walser, Wolfe gained a reputation for being "quick" with women and "could not be trusted with well-bred Southern girls."

After graduating from UNC in 1920, Wolfe went to Harvard University and received his master of arts degree in literature. He then taught English at New York University while trying to get plays produced.

After a year of teaching, Wolfe traveled to Europe to write. On the return voyage, he met Aline Bernstein, a married mother of two grown children who was nearly 20 years older than Wolfe. The two began a five-year affair.

Wolfe wrote his first novel -- "Look Homeward, Angel" -- with Bernstein's emotional and financial support. He dedicated the book to her when it was published in 1929.

Wolfe's success allowed him to continue to write until he became ill in 1938. He died Sept. 15, 1938, at the age of 37 of tuberculosis of the brain.

Critics have said that "Look Homeward, Angel" is a chronicle of the author's colorful life. In a 1929 letter, Wolfe wrote, "To put it as briefly as possible, the book has pain, ugliness, beauty, cruelty, tenderness, lust, love, and many other things in it -- but so have human experience -- and my total effort has been to mimic the whole with (I hope) beauty."

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