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Books You Should Know ...

A World I Never Made

(21 April 1947)

From Labor Action, Vol. 11 No. 16, 21 April 1947, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

A World I Never Made
by James T. Farrell
The World Publishing Co.; $1.49; 508 pages

“I a stranger and afraid,
In a world I never made.”

With the reissuance of this book in a cheap and handy edition, the first of the four novels that make up the Danny O’Neill series of James T. Farrell (the others are No Star Is Lost, Father and Son and My Days of Anger) is now available to the general reading public. The tetrology, as is known, deals with the emergence of young Danny O’Neill and his awakening to the problems and realities of life. The form of this series, as Farrell explains, in a new and interesting introduction, differs considerably from that of the Studs Lonigan Trilogy in that it does not center upon one individual as the “main focus of attention,” but rather shows the development of several major protagonists. The style and technique, however, are in the method associated with Farrell.

“Before a world can be changed, it is necessary to know what the nature of experience is like in that world,” says Farrell in his introductory note. “This novel is one of the efforts I have made to go as deeply as possible into the nature of experience during the period of my own lifetime.” The series of experiences shown to us, set in the naturalistically-described background of pre-World War I America, are expressed in terms of “a complicated series of contrasts” between the two branches of one Irish; family, the O’Neills and the O’Flahertys.

One branch is working class, the other is the lowest of the petty bourgeois ranks; both are Irish to the bone. Various generations of the family appear. Old grandmother O’Flaherty, a mixture of humor, wisdom and spry viciousness; Lizz, her slovenly, hysterically religious daughter and the mother of Danny; Danny O’Neill, a somewhat too “goody-goody”, sort of boy, confused and fearful in this world he never made; and many other members of this conflicting. hostile yet somehow bound-together family growing up in growing up America

While this novel does not have the merit of the Studs Lonigan series, it should be read by those interested in getting an insight into Farrell’s naturalistic method and evaluating it. Perhaps its curious suggestivity and the implications that lead to understanding of the characters, their world and their problems, are more important that the writing itself.

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