Worker-writer in America

Worker-writer in America : Jack Conroy and the Tradition of Midwestern Literary Radicalism, 1898-1990

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'Jack Conroy, a coal miner's son who apprenticed at age thirteen in a railroad shop, later migrated to factory cities and experienced the privation and labor struggles of the 1930s. As a worker and writer he composed "The Disinherited", one of the most important working-class novels in American literature. As the editor of a radical literary journal, "The Anvil", he nurtured the early careers of Richard Wright, Nelson Algren, and Meridel Le Sueur before his own literary work was eclipsed in the Cold War years'.'Wixson draws upon a wealth of letters and manuscripts made available to him as Conroy's literary executor, as well as numerous interviews with Conroy and his former contributors and colleagues. Wixson explores the origins and development of worker-writing, the numerous 'little magazines' that welcomed it, and the history of its reception. He examines the differences between the mid western and East Coast literary worlds, and the milieu in which Conroy and others like him worked - the Depression, job layoffs, factory closings, homelessness, and migration'.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 702 pages
  • 144 x 219.5 x 38.1mm | 950.51g
  • Baltimore, United States
  • English
  • New edition
  • New edition
  • 0252067851
  • 9780252067853

Review quote

"In our time it seems particularly worthwhile to be reminded of the important and hitherto neglected chapter in our literary history that is so scrupulously rendered in this book-a time of grass-roots faith in literature as an uncondescending chronicle of working-class and underclass lives and, at its best, a potential vehicle of social change... Douglas Wixson tells [Conroy's] story, and those of other writers like him, with clarity, intelligence, and impressive scholarly energy."-Charles Fanning, New York Times Book Review "An exhaustively researched, felicitously written biography as well as 'a forum for the contributors to Conroy's magazines ... to tell their stories.' We get a sense of the keen ear Conroy and other worker- writers had for the folklore, flamboyance, irony, irreverence, and resistance sometimes present in working-class vernacular... Those attempting to historicize and theorize working-class writing of the United States could find no better guide than this book. Like the legacy of Comrade Jack, Worker-Writer will endure." - Constance Coiner, The Journal of American History "The general reader interested in the origins of many of America's multicultural literary traditions will find much to mine in these pages, remarkably readable for an academic study... Jack Conroy lives again in this book, brave, funny, honest, and larger than life."-Henry Kisor, Chicago Sun-Times "A prodigious research effort by an obviously skilled and dedicated scholar... For serious students of twentieth-century radicalism or social history, this is a must read." - North Dakota Quarterly "The author of this important work ... is one of Conroy's greatest admirers. He appreciates Conroy's wonderful body of writing, but this study also acknowledges his other contributions, including his marvelous editorial skills... Wixson served as Conroy's literary executor, which enabled him to examine a wealth of letters and manuscripts. His numerous interviews with Conroy are fascinating not only as biographical references, but as an important literary history of the American worker as shaped by the structures and circumstances of twentieth-century life. Wixson has done an excellent job and has provided a key work for a better understanding of the worker-writer in our culture." - Arthur F. McClure, Missouri Historical Review "A long-overdue account of the proletarian writers' movement in Depression- era America, when economic deprivation and despair politicized U.S. writers like nothing before or since... [Wixson's] book is the most significant contribution to 1930s literary history since Aaron's Writers on the Left." - David Brent Johnson, The Ryder Magazine ADVANCE PRAISE "A critical but sympathetic exploration of the political and cultural milieu that produced the 'proletarian literature' of the 1930s, a moment in American literary radicalism that has previously attracted more dismissal and ridicule than serious study. This is a fine book, which deserves to take its place on the bookshelf of every historian interested in the era, alongside the works of Daniel Aaron, Richard Pells, and Alan Wald." - Maurice Isserman "A genuine breakthrough into a rich area of cultural history." - Alan Wald "Important and stunningly original... Not only a fine and definitive biography of Jack Conroy but also the first detailed history of an important group of midwestern radical writers-novelists and poets-of the 1920s and 1930s. For the first time we learn the real material conditions of this literary network during the Depression. No previous work of scholarship comes close to telling this story at all, let alone in such rich detail. - Cary Nelson, author of Repression and Recovery: Modern American Poetry and the Politics of Cultural Memory "An important contribution to our understanding of that literature and the histories it represents... In one sense a detailed and remarkably sympathetic biography; it is also an impressive work of cultural history, describing the actions of an extended network of Midwestern radical writers and small presses that flourished during the late 1920s and the 1930s... Wixson is especially insightful about the internal conflict experienced by many of these authors as the result of their dual status as worker and writer." - Nicholas Coles, Gateway Heritage
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