The Good Child's River

Thomas Wolfe, Author, Suzanne Stutman, Introduction by University of North Carolina Press $24.95 (292p) ISBN 978-0-8078-2002-5
The fragments of this intriguing unfinished novel, assembled by Stutman after ``years of detective work,'' shed light on Wolfe's (1900-1938) creative methods while recording his intense love for theater designer Aline Bernstein, who appears as Esther Jack in the posthumous The Web and the Rock and You Can't Go Home Again . Fascinated by her Jewish heritage--as he was by ethnicity generally--Wolfe wished to absorb Bernstein's life as part of the ``river'' of time's flow and to reinvent it, while the mature, wealthy Bernstein strove as his Scheherazade to prolong their affair, sending sheafs of notes that finally taxed his patience. The strain is evident here, since Wolfe digresses from the Esther passages, but his storytelling genius, vital and chaotic, emerges in this welter of vignettes, however hastily they are lashed together. Highlights are accounts of New York at the turn of the century; the imagining of Bernstein's father's life (fictionalized as Joe Barrett, he is depicted as a Connecticut Yankee of ``mountain blood'' like Wolfe, an actor who joins a circus); and the portrait of a Victorian aunt who scribbled 60 sentimental novels but scandalized readers by penning a sexual escapade. Her plea for writing frankly on ``the sensual woman'' bares the author's own liberated views. Reading these lyrical, effusive pages is to take an invigorating plunge in the swarming sea of Wolfe's imagination. Publication is set for Wolfe's birthday, October 3. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/30/1991
Release date: 10/01/1991
Paperback - 332 pages - 978-0-8078-4457-1
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