The Thomas Wolfe Memorial does not move us to think about the creative spirit so much as it moves us to think about everyday life. Cleave it from its ties to literary celebrity and it becomes replete in and of itself: Come see how, in a certain place at a certain time, some people lived, and some made a living.
I have wanted to visit this house for years. Like many North Carolina kids, I grew up with the broad strokes of Thomas Wolfe’s story, the prolific, small-town genius who became one of the most revered writers of his generation. I lived in North Carolina for most of my life, but I never took the opportunity to visit. Not enough money, not enough time, too much to do: that’s an old story, I know, and a true one. It is also true that we seldom value the places where we live, not enough anyway.
A Points South essay from the North Carolina Music Issue.
In Ryan Adams, the mythic memory of Thomas Wolfe is reincarnate in a contemporary host: an emotional kid from a marginal city in North Carolina with a precocious—underlined—and prolific—triple underlined—talent for transmuting the cramped circumstances of his childhood into dramatic, heartbreaking art of a rarefied sort. Hailing from opposite ends of the state, they each ended up in New York City as young men by way of a crucial teenage education in the Triangle—Wolfe at Chapel Hill during World War I and Adams in the bars of nineties Raleigh. As creators, the unfathomable volume of each man’s output clouds the artistic legacy.