June 27, 2017

RESIDENTS: James T. Farrell

Farrell, circa 1968

Continuing our series on notable community residents, here's the lowdown on resident James T. Farrell, a critically acclaimed author renowned for his best-selling Studs Lonigan trilogy.

Born in Chicago to a teamster family, Farrell has a rough-and-tumble adolescence that provides the inspiration for Studs Lonigan's world.

The books depict lower-class Irish-American life on Chicago's South Side during the Depression, and are written in a blunt, sexually explicit style that shocks readers, thrills critics and makes Farrell a star. No less than H.L. Mencken calls him "the best living American novelist."
The trilogy: Young Lonigan (1932), The Young Manhood of Studs Lonigan (1934), Judgement Day (1935)

This overwhelming success comes to him at a young age; Farrell is just 28 when the first installment of the trilogy is published. He writes many books in the years that follow ‒ 52 in all.
1950s paperback editions of Farrell's work.
But none of them surpass Studs Lonigan in critical or commercial acclaim. He's not happy about it, later complaining to a reporter that "Studs has been a chain around my neck."

In the fall of 1966, Farrell becomes a resident of No. 5. (We assume he rents one of the penthouses, given that the 'chain around his neck' has sold over over a million copies). Tudor City View profiles the new neighbor and finds he's just an ordinary joe:
"He can be seen strolling along Tudor City Place, a beret on his head, engrossed in a book,or sitting in the Tudor Drug Store, discussing baseball with a stranger beside him at the counter. . ."
Farrell dies in 1979 at the age of 75. Years later, the Modern Library compiles a list of the 100 best novels of the 20th Century. The Studs Lonigan trilogy is rated number 29.

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