On Sunday, I watched my team win in the eleventh hour. My favorite kind of win. But during the pregame hour of talking heads, Terry Bradshaw–reaching very hard for context–said something along the lines of “It’s like in this book by this guy Thomas Wolfe, Look Homeward Angel. He says we’re all just trying to get home again, you know? And we can’t, we just can’t.” And then he connected it to whatever football player he was talking about (I can’t remember who), and the other talking heads made fun of him for it afterward (“Well Terry, as I was just reading in this really inspirational book, Football 2.0…”), and the game commenced.
But I made note of the book because that’s–as I’ve mentioned before–one of my favorite themes in literature, even if I didn’t know it for many years. And I’ve tracked it down (fearing at first that it would be some footballer’s biography, which would precipitate a rapid decline in my interest, relevant themes or no) and in the author’s note Thomas Wolfe says:
But we are the sum of all the moments of our lives–all that is ours is in them: we cannot escape or conceal it. If the writer has used the clay of life to make his book, he has only used what all men must, what none can keep from using. Fiction is not fact, but fiction is fact selected and understood, fiction is fact arranged and charged with purpose.
He’s saying this as a way of addressing those who may have known people who clearly appear in the book, in a form that may be recognizable to them. He addresses the impulse (impulse or directive delivered from the publisher, I do not know) to say “yup, it’s fiction, nobody real in here!” despite the necessary absorption of real people and experiences into his prose. Into everyone’s prose. And that’s all I was able to read–I’m at work–but I finished my other book on the bus this morning so I’m free to start this one. And I’m looking forward to it.
Thanks for the book rec, Terry Bradshaw.