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James Farrell

1904-1979

American novelist

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James T. Farrell

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 

James Thomas Farrell (February 27, 1904 - August 22, 1979) was an American novelist. One of his most famous works was the Studs Lonigan trilogy, which was made into a film in 1960 and into a television miniseries in 1979. The trilogy was voted number 29 on the Modern Library's list of the 100 best novels of the 20th century.

 Biography

Farrell was born in Chicago, Illinois, to a large Irish-American family which included siblings Earl, Joseph, Helen, John and Mary. In addition, there were several other siblings who died in childbirth, as well as one who died from the influenza epidemic in 1917. Farrell attended Mt. Carmel High School, then known as St. Cyril, with future Egyptologist Richard Anthony Parker. He then later attended the University of Chicago. He began writing when he was 21 years old. A novelist, journalist, and short story writer known for his realistic portraits of the working class South Side Irish, especially in the novels about the character Studs Lonigan. Farrell based his writing on his own experiences.

Among the writers who acknowledged Farrell as an inspiration was Norman Mailer:

"Mr. Mailer intended to major in aeronautical engineering, but by the time he was a sophomore, he had fallen in love with literature. He spent the summer reading and rereading James T. Farrell's “Studs Lonigan,” John Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath” and John Dos Passos’s “U.S.A.,” and he began, or so he claimed, to set himself a daily quota of 3,000 words of his own, on the theory that this was the way to get bad writing out of his system. By 1941 he was sufficiently purged to win the Story magazine prize for best short story written by an undergraduate."[1]

 Politics

Farrell was also active in Trotskyist politics and joined the Socialist Workers Party (SWP). He came to agree with Albert Goldman and Felix Morrows' criticism of the SWP and Fourth International leaderships. With Goldman, he left the group in 1946 to join the Workers' Party.

Within the Workers' Party, Goldman and Farrell worked closely. In 1948, they developed criticisms of its policies, claiming that the party should support the Marshall Plan and also Norman Thomas' presidential candidacy. Having come to believe that only capitalism could defeat Stalinism, they left to join the Socialist Party of America. In the late 1960s, disenchanted with the political "center", while impressed with the SWP's involvement in the Civil Rights and US anti-Vietnam War movements, he reestablished contact with his former comrades of two decades earlier. Farrell attended one or more SWP-sponsored Militant Forum events (probably in NYC), but never rejoined the Trotskyist movement.

 Marriages

Farrell was married twice. His first wife was Dorothy Butler. His second wife (from 1941 to 1955 when they divorced) was stage actress Hortense Alden. He and Alden had two sons, Kevin and John.


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