Academic journal article Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society

Chicago Stories

Academic journal article Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society

Chicago Stories

Article excerpt

Chicago Stories, by James T. Farrell. Selected and edited by Charles Fanning (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1998. 256 pages, Paper, $17.95, a Prairie State Book.)

Perhaps the biggest surprise in this excellent and vital collection of James T. Farrell's short stories comes in the opening of Charles Fanning's introduction: "In January, 1969, at the age of sixty-four, James T. Farrell recalled the primacy of the short story for his career in fiction: 'I began not as a novelist, but as a short story writer. For more than two years after I had decided to become a writer, I worked to write publishable short stories."' Fanning goes on to report that Farrell published "an astonishing 250 stories, most of them collected in fifteen volumes" over a span of over forty years. From this impressive body of work, Fanning has selected 25 of Farrell's stories, written between 1930 and 1948, for Chicago Stories, a vibrant collection that rivals the magnificence of Farrell's more well-known works, in particular the Studs Lonigan trilogy (also reprinted by the University of Illinois Press) and the Danny O'Neill pentalogy.

The emphasis here on Farrell's early work allows the reader the opportunity to trace the development of an emerging artist. Fanning begins Chicago Stories with the first five stories from Farrell's first short story collection, Calico Shoes and Other Stories (1934), in their original order. Chicago Stories also presents the stories "Studs" (1929) and "Jim O'Neill" (1932), which contain the seeds of Farrell's two most-known novel cycles. Indeed, as Fanning points out, the remainder of the collection represents "the full range" of Farrell's characters and central themes, presented against the grainy backdrop of the common setting of Chicago's South Side. …

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