Editor’s note: Thomas Calder leads occasional weekend tours at the Thomas Wolfe Memorial.
The month of May will be a busy one for the Thomas Wolfe Memorial. Visitors will have the chance to take part in a series of events that explore the writer’s early life, career and death. Wolfe, who grew up on North Market Street in his mother’s boarding house, the Old Kentucky Home, is bestknown for his debut novel, Look Homeward Angel. After its publication in October, 1929, Wolfe imposed a self-exile from Asheville, which lasted nearly eight years, on account of the city’s angry response to the work.
On Saturday, May 14, Tom Muir, the Memorial’s historic site manager, will be offering a walking tour at Riverside Cemetery, where Wolfe, along with a majority of his immediate family, are buried. Muir notes that in addition to the Wolfe clan, “there are over 150 people interred in the cemetery who are known to have become characters in Wolfe’s works.” The tour itself will only cover around 30 of these individuals. Muir recommends people wear comfortable shoes, as guests will traverse many hills and grassy areas. Those interested can purchase their $5 ticket at the Thomas Wolfe Memorial visitor center at 52 N. Market St. The tour will meet at the gate of Riverside Cemetery at 10 a.m. and will conclude at noon.
On Saturday, May 21, the memorial’s visitor center will host a book signing. Writer and illustrator Laura Boffa will meet and greet fans of her new children’s book, Writing Home, from 1 to 3 p.m. It’s the story of Wolfe’s childhood in Asheville, as well as his travels around the Midwest and eventual return home in 1937, shortly before his unexpected and premature death. “This is the first children’s book telling the story of Thomas Wolfe,” Muir says. “We think [Boffa’s] done a fine job.”
That same weekend, the 38th annual meeting of the Thomas Wolfe Society will gather for a weekend’s worth of lectures, talks and academic presentations on the life and works of Wolfe at the Renaissance Asheville Hotel. “They meet in places all around the world where Thomas Wolfe went,” says Muir. “I know next year they’re meeting in Berlin.”
Muir adds that, because of this rotation, the society only convenes in Asheville every four or five years. “It’s always good for us to have the Thomas Wolfe experts in town,” he says.