Look Homeward, Thomas•The Oxford American

Thomas Wolfe’s grave is not hard to find because there are arrows to point the way. But as we know from his fiction, arrows may point the way but they can never get us there. The idea I was searching for as I hopped into the car Saturday morning—that I could go to a city, study it for a few days and then understand how it “made” Thomas Wolfe—becomes romantic and sweet and foolish to me all of a sudden. Mostly I’m just happy that visiting Wolfe’s grave tells me it was all these things.

On the back of a photocopied map to the cemetery I make a penciled rubbing, kindergarten style, of part of the tombstone. The marker does not share the name of any relative, though others on the Wolfe plot do. Even in death there is loneliness for Wolfe. I see that another Wolfe aficionado has been there recently. He or she has written a note to Wolfe and placed it under two rocks and some acorns. The note has been made illegible by the previous day’s rain; I complete my predecessor’s homage by pulling some leaves from an oak nearby and placing them under the rocks—“a stone, a leaf, an unfound door.”

Now that I’m sure I’m about to leave Asheville, I’ve begun to enjoy it. I turn my back on “the distant soaring ranges” that Wolfe almost escaped and hit the road for Mississippi.

 

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