No major American writer has been worse served by criticism than James T. Farrell. After the publication in 1935 of his first fictional series, the Studs Lonigan trilogy, Farrell labored for four decades under an unjust and unfounded critical accusation. During these years, many influential critics dealt with his fiction as it appeared by mechanical citation of a party line which ran as follows: "James T. Farrell is that sad case, a one-book writer. Studs Lonigan is credible fiction, albeit in the limiting and dated naturalistic mode pioneered by Theodore Dreiser. But his subsequent novels have been obsessive reworkings of the same materials, and nowhere near as good as Studs." The primarily New York-based writers who mouthed this line became the American critical establishment of the 1940s and 1950s, and their dismissal of Farrell was repeated in the academy by the next generation of scholar/teachers, many of whom never took the trouble to read the books in question.

Note on the Author

Charles Fanning teaches Irish and American Literature at Bridgewater State College.