About James T. Farrell: Studs Lonigan: A Trilogy (LOA #148)
This Library of America volume contains one of the masterpieces of American naturalism and a major influence on generations of American novelists, James T. Farrell’s Studs Lonigan trilogy. Farrell follows the hopes and dissipations of its remarkable main character through the turbulent years of World War I, the Roaring Twenties, and the Great Depression. In William “Studs” Lonigan—a would-be tough guy and archetypal adolescent born to Irish-American parents on Chicago’s South Side—Farrell creates an anti-heroic Everyman helplessly stifled by the conditions under which he grows up. The three novels—Young Lonigan (1932), The Young Manhood of Studs Lonigan (1934), and Judgment Day (1935)—are unparalleled in their sense of the textures of real life: of the institutions of Catholicism, the poolroom and the dance marathon, romance and marriage, gangsterism and ethnic rivalry.
The slang of the street corner, the banalities of family conversation, the inflated rhetoric of sermon and pep talk: Farrell got down on paper the real sound of American urban speech with a directness that had a revolutionary impact on American writing. His unsentimental depiction of the sex lives of Studs and his companions was shocking to contemporary sensibilities, and the trilogy was attacked and sometimes banned as an offense to morals. Equally disturbing to some readers was Farrell’s relentless questioning of education, home life, and the hollowness and spiritual poverty of the cultural choices offered to his protagonist.
Of the milieu in which the trilogy is rooted, Farrell later wrote: “As to the Irishness of it, I generally feel that I’m an Irishman rather than an American,” and later added: “I am a second-generation Irish-American. The effects and scars of immigrations are upon my life. . . . For an Irish boy born in Chicago in 1904, the past was a tragedy of his people.”
This edition of Studs Lonigan, published in celebration of Farrell’s centennial, also includes “Boys and Girls,” a short story derived from a chapter of Young Lonigan that was deleted because the publisher feared its sexual realism would result in prosecution.
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