Writers write. That’s what Tom and Bill told me, anyway.
Each had his own way.
Wolfe stands as an autobiographical American classic. He immortalized his home, down on Woodfin street, as the Old Kentucky home. “Look Homeward Angel” was banned from Asheville libraries for several years because it aired too much local dirty laundry.
But his writing is pure poetry. If haven’t read him, try.
Porter ranks behind only Twain and Poe as the most read of American authors. But his autobiography leaves a little tarnish, where old Tom’s life story adds rather than detracts.
Porter was born in Greensboro and traveled about. I think he ended up in Austin, where you’ll find “The Gift of the Magi” writer’s museum.
But Porter ended up in an Ohio prison, accused of embezzlement. He sat there for three years, writing. I’m not sure of his guilt or innocence, but his conscience led him to create the pseudonym O.Henry.
Unlike the polished, upright Wolfe stone at Riverside Cemetery, Porter’s headstone lies flat. Two candles, lit once and now tipped, are there, as well as a couple of cigar wrappers and an old bouquet of faded, cut flowers. Coins litter the top of Porter’s stone, left there by admirers.
I walked around the cemetery for about an hour, exploring the hilly terrain. Asheville names you take for granted make sense here – like putting faces with names. There’s Chunn. Merrimon’s monument over there. Vance. Weaver. They’re all here.
I figure I’m here for a reason. Somehow, me, Tom and Bill, we all ended up here for a reason. Writers write, they told me.
I was relieved to realize that I had moved from Thomas Wolfe’s home to a city near James Thurber’s home.
I have been able to finish Thurber books. Wolfe always seemed to bog me down. I blame me, not him.
It’s harder than it sounds.