Race in Chicago Story: Farrell \”The Fastest Runner on 61st Street\”

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    Gloria Lee McMillan

    Update on Rust Belt Lit. Projects for July 19, 2018




    James T. Farrell’s (d. 1979) 1950 short story “The Fastest Runner on 61st Street, A Story” is set during the Chicago Race Riots of 1919.



    LINK:  https://www.commentarymagazine.com/articles/the-fastest-runner-on-sixty-first-streeta-story/


    I had this story in my first year of college literature survey, edited by the famed “Algonquin Round Table” wit and editor Dorothy Parker. Parker died in1967 of a heart attack at the age of 73. In her will, she bequeathed her estate to Martin Luther King Jr. Following King\’s death, her estate was passed on to the NAACP.  Parker’s selection of stories in Short Story: A Thematic Anthology (1960) stays with me because I have kept that anthology since 1967.


    It is listed under the section “Cruelty”


    “The Doll’s House”   Katherine Mansfield

    “The Fastest Runner on 61st Street” James T. Farrell

    “Life for a Life”  Alan Paten




    On this writer:

    Farrell previously wrote Studs Lonigan a novel: Young Lonigan (1932), The Young Manhood of Studs Lonigan (1934), and Judgment Day (1935). In 1998, the Modern Library ranked the Studs Lonigan trilogy at 29th on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. The trilogy was adapted into a minor 1960 film and a 1979 television miniseries, both of which were simply titled Studs Lonigan. He influenced many writer, including Norman Mailer.


    Farrell wrote these three novels at a time of national despair. During the Great Depression, many of America\’s most gifted writers and artists aspired to create a single, powerful work of art that would fully expose the evils of capitalism and lead to a political and economic overhaul of the American system.


    Farrell chose to use his own personal knowledge of Irish-American life on the South Side of Chicago to create a portrait of an average American slowly destroyed by the \”spiritual poverty\” of his environment. Both Chicago and the Catholic Church of that era are described at length, and faulted. Farrell describes Studs sympathetically as Studs slowly deteriorates, changing from a tough but fundamentally good-hearted, adventurous teenage boy to an embittered, physically shattered alcoholic. (Wikipedia)












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