BOOKS: Unpredictable Imagination

The death last week of Thomas Clayton Wolfe shocked critics with the realization that, of all American novelists of his generation, he was the one from whom most had been expected. He had almost finished his third novel when he contracted pneumonia in Seattle two months ago and was apparently recovering when an infection spread to his kidneys and heart. Rushed to Johns Hopkins hospital in Baltimore, he was operated on twice during the week, died of an acute cerebral infection, at 38.

The puzzle of Thomas Wolfe's fiction was its combination of...