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Address to the Thomas Wolfe Society, Thirty-Fifth Annual Meeting, 25 May 2013, Boise, Idaho.

In the last session this morning, David Radavich said, “Ultimately, Thomas Wolfe did not find the home that he was seeking. He remained restless... [and] his true home was in writing.” I too would like to talk this evening about the relationship between home and community on the one hand and restless motion on the other. I am interested in Wolfe’s thoughts about homes and communities in A Western Journal, and in the way—had he lived—westerners themselves might have continued to influence him as he worked on the next big book. We began this conference with an imaginary dialogue between Vardis Fisher and Thomas Wolfe, and I’m going to end the formal program tonight with more of the what-if game. You all are better equipped than I to speculate about what Wolfe might have written if he had lived beyond 1938; I’d like to focus narrowly on how westerners’ experiences of home, community, and motion might have found their way into Wolfe’s sympathetic consciousness and affected his ideas of home. What if he remained restless, as David Radavich said, and discovered an idea of home compatible with motion? In my reading of A Western Journal, Wolfe may have been moving toward such a reconciliation of opposites. From research on Wolfe’s northwest literary friends and the western news of 1938, I’m going to speculate that Wolfe was in the process of learning from his western surroundings that vital and necessary communities—homes, even—could be the creative work of people in motion.

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This document was originally published by the Thomas Wolfe Society in the Thomas Wolfe Review. Copyright restrictions may apply.