Harlem Renaissance Re-Examined

By Victor A. Kramer; Robert A. Russ | Go to book overview

A FISHER OF BLACK LIFE:
SHORT STORIES BY RUDOLPH FISHER

MARGARET PERRY

It is not surprising that little of the work done in the short story form by Rudolph Fisher ( 1897-1934) is known; there has never been a collection of all his short stories, 1 and this hampers the scholar in pursuit of a unified view of Fisher's themes and style. In the early part of our century, short stories written by black authors had little appeal to the primary reading public, which was white; Fisher seems to have been the exception to this, however. Although his stories were published frequently in Negro publications, he also appeared in non-Negro publications such as Atlantic Monthly and McClure's, and thus was able to reach a wider audience of short-story readers. Despite this, little space is devoted to Fisher in critical histories of the American short story. Indeed, the central metaphor of Black Invisibility can be said to have been operating among critics of the short story in America. In an effort to rectify this neglect, the present article explores the stories of Rudolph Fisher, both published and unpublished, and places them within the context of the times in which he lived. The precise time in history, as well as the place--Harlem, its spirit--were significant elements in Fisher's fiction; indeed, they were perhaps the reasons he felt impelled to capture his world within the strictures of the short-story form. Full of wit, irony, humor, and some acerbity, Fisher has enriched the world of literature in a medium Frank O'Connor has called our "national art form." 2

Rudolph Fisher, born in Washington, D.C., on 9 May 1897, was brought up mainly in Providence, Rhode Island, where he completed his studies at Classical High School in 1915 with high honors. In 1915 Fisher matriculated at Brown University, majoring in English and biology. Following graduation, Fisher re-

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