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Thomas Wolfe Comes Calling: An Imagined Visit with Vardis Fisher

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A Dialogue: Mark Canada playing Thomas Wolfe, and Joseph M. Flora playing Vardis Fisher.1

The date: early evening, 6 June 1938. The nation is experiencing some of the darkest days of the Great Depression. Wolfe, optimistic about his career, is on vacation. We catch him en route to Portland, Oregon, anticipating exploration of the Northwest, a region of the nation he has not yet experienced. Passing through Idaho, Wolfe would naturally wish to call on his friend Vardis Fisher, an authentic man of the West if there ever was one. They haven't seen each other in more than seven years.

Wolfe first met Fisher in spring 1929 when, after his fourth trip to Europe, he returned to teach at Washington Square College of New York University. Fisher had joined the English Department during Wolfe's absence. The two soon became friends; they were at similar places in their careers. Fish er's first novel had been published the previous year, and Scrib ner's had just agreed to publish Look Homeward, Angel. Now, in June 1938, the two are at or near the zenith of their fame. Fisher has gained national attention with his autobiographical Vridar Hunter tetralogy, and now reviewers were lauding Idaho, A Guide in Word and Pictures, the first volume of the American Guide Series sponsored by FDR's Federal Writers' Project of the Works Progress Administration. Fisher, director of the Federal Writers' Project in Idaho, had written almost everything in the guide.

[Loud knocks are heard.]

WOLFE: Vardis, open up!!! Hurry!! I'm thirsty!!

[The door opens.]

WOLFE: You old bastard, I thought I'd never find you!

FISHER: Tom Wolfe! What a surprise! Come on in.

WOLFE: I had the devil of a time finding you. When I couldn't find you in the phone book, I asked a fella in the...