An Introduction by Tobias Wolff
So Long, See You Tomorrow is a remarkable novel. It was recognized as such at the time of its publication. It attracted critical acclaim after it was published in 1980, winning the National Book Award and the Howells Medal for American Fiction. Almost all the writers I know keep a special place in their hearts for this book – can even quote from it – but, for reasons inexplicable to me, it has largely gone unrecognized by the general reader and even by the academy.
Set in the Midwest just after World War One, So Long, See You Tomorrow is a beautifully written, complex, haunting story of a boy’s attempt to find warmth and companionship following the death of his mother in the Spanish Influenza epidemic — which killed more people than the Great War it so quickly followed. It is a work of consummate literary artistry, and a cry from the heart that, once heard, cannot be forgotten.
So Long, See You Tomorrow will be the first event in our “Another Look” book club series. In exchanging opinions with some of my English department colleagues last year about a book we’d all read, it struck me that it would be interesting to open up our conversation to other readers. We had occasionally held lunchtime discussions of a story or novel or poem for interested students and members of the department, and these had proved popular. Well, why not open our arms a little farther and invite the university community to participate; or, better yet, open our arms out wide to the community at large?
That idea has now assumed form, and, as the one who suggested it, I’ll pay for my rashness by hosting the first. I’ll be joined in this conversation by Vendela Vida, novelist, critic, and editor of the literary journal The Believer, and by Assistant Professor Vaughn Rasberry of the English department. We will explore the novel among ourselves for 30 to 40 minutes, then invite those who attend to contribute their own insights, questions, and judgments.
One of my hopes for this communal reading experience is to inspire a fresh encounter with literary works of the highest quality that have somehow passed to the margins of our cultural memory. This happened to The Great Gatsby, let us remember, and even to Moby Dick, until someone took the trouble to restore them to our attention. We are taking that trouble, hence the name of the series – “Another Look.”