James Thomas Farrell (1904–1979) was born in Chicago to a struggling family of second-generation Irish Catholic immigrants. In 1907, his father, James Farrell, a teamster unable to support his growing family, placed young Jim with his maternal grandparents. It was his grandparents’ neighborhood in Chicago’s South Fifties that would provide the background to Farrell’s Studs Lonigan trilogy. Farrell worked his way through the University of Chicago, shedding his Catholic upbringing and absorbing the works of William James, John Dewey, Sigmund Freud, while reading widely in American and European literature: Herman Melville, Sherwood Anderson, H. L. Mencken, Sinclair Lewis, and James Joyce were critical influences on his literary development. “Slob” (1929), his first published story, was also his first render ing of the real life “Studs Lonigan,” a young man he had known growing up in Chicago. Farrell’s first novel, Young Lonigan was published in 1932, followed by The Young Manhood of Studs Lonigan (1934) and Judgment Day (1935)—the three volumes making up his celebrated Studs Lonigan trilogy. A prolific writer, Farrell left more than fifty books of stories and novels behind him when he died in 1979. Alongside his masterpiece Studs Lonigan, Farrell’s best-known works include the Danny O’Neill novels, A World I Never Made, No Star is Lost, Father and Son, and My Days of Anger. James T. Farrell’s Studs Lonigan trilogy is also available in Penguin Classics.
Ann Douglas teaches English at Columbia University. Her books include Terrible Honesty: Mongrel Manhattan in the 1920s and The Feminization of American Culture.