"No one has ever written any books about America -- I mean the real America," he wrote to a friend in 1931.

Thomas Wolfe, who would have turned 100 on Oct. 3, 2000, intertwined the weave of America in his fiction so tightly with his own experience that, in the end, there was no telling one from the other. Do not attempt to unravel Wolfe from America, a voice tells us now. Rather, step far back and take in his immense tapestry.

He wrote of himself as he wished to see himself, each petty experience and each trivial encounter taking on the proportion of monuments. No one aches like I do. No one regrets like I do. And no one can see it all so clearly as I do. Some writers -- a very few -- never leave childhood. Thomas Wolfe never left adolescence. The hurt just below the skin is in every line. It is no wonder that his editor and mentor, Maxwell Perkins, said, "Every good thing that comes (with Wolfe) is accompanied by trouble."