Books: Letters from Leviathan

THE LETTERS OF THOMAS WOLFE (797 pp.)—Edited by Elizabeth Nowell—Scribner ($10).

The novels of Thomas Wolfe often seem written at the top of his voice, shouted in the mingled accents of Coleridge, Melville, Tolstoy, Joyce and Walt Whitman, accompanied by the basso profundo of Ecclesiastes. But Wolfe was more than an echo chamber. Though writing in the manner of many men, what he had to say was pre-eminently his own, and he came excitingly close to creating the long-anticipated Great American Novel.

Wolfe speaks for and to the young, particularly to young men who know...

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