In 1936, Thomas Wolfe published a small book called The Story of a Novel, in which he described the composition of his second novel, Of Time and the River (which had been published the year before), rhapsodized about the history and mystery of his creative gift, and, in general, sang himself. Two years later he returned to the same vineyard and emerged with a somewhat smaller pressing of the same vintage. He called this second exercise in self-celebration “Writing and Living,” and—in what turned out to be his last public appearance—presented it as a lecture at Purdue University in the summer of 1938. More than two decades afterward, in 1962, professors William Braswell and Leslie Field of Purdue added an introduction, copious textual notes, and two extensive appendices and published the lecture as a book to which they gave the flat but accurate title Thomas Wolfe’s Purdue...

 

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