The Brooklyn Novels

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These three novels of the 1930s constitute an American classic. In their own way, they do for the Jewish immigrants of Brooklyn what Studs Lonigan did for the Irish of Chicago. So it is no surprise that, upon their first publication, Lonigan’s creator welcomed them in a review for The Nation, praising Fuchs’s keen eye, excellent ear for dialogue, and quick perception of the grotesque, the whimsical, the tragic. “I know of few novelists in America today,” James T. Farrell said, “who possess Fuchs’s natural talent and energy or his sense of life.”

In his 80s Fuchs wrote: “I used to go on long walks . . . take in the street sights at night. I freely used the sights and happenings in the three novels I wrote in my 20s: Summer in Williamsburg (1934), Homage to Blenholt (1936), and Low Company (1937). . .I had ‘ideas’ for each of these books, but I soon tired of them, ideas being — for me, at any rate — unsatisfactory. I abandoned them. . .and devoted myself simply to the tenement: the life in the hallways, the commotion at the dumbwaiters, the assortment of characters in the building, their strivings and preoccupations, their troubles in the interplay of the sexes. There was always a ferment, slums or no slums. The slums didn’t hold them down.”

Time hasn’t held down these novels, either. Like Joseph Mitchell’s New York sketches of the same period, they are as alive today as the day they were first printed, as tropical-rainforest lush, as exuberant. What’s true remains so, and Farrell spoke the truth back in 1937: there are still few novelists in America today who possess Fuchs’s talent, his energy, his sense of life.

Fuchs is a master. He had Pasternak’s wonder at youth’s encounter with the wider world, and Chekhov’s nose for thwarted desire, and Turgenev’s generosity to the barbarians of the new order.
—Boris Fishman, The New Republic

These novels capture, better than any of the better-known works of the time, the eerie tenor of the Great Depression, the sense of living without a past or any hope for the future. Fuchs’ ability to replicate the quixotic energy of life on the streets of New York in this age of futility is unmatched by any of his contemporaries.
—Gabriel Miller, The Star Ledger

The tenement tumult and its setting for what Fuchs called ‘the daily mystery’ are available for the first time in years. I am giving this to our son, who is part of Willliamsburg’s vibrant young set, so he can read about a long-ago Brooklyn, then, as now, a crucible that shaped the American character.
—Steven Isenberg, Austin American-Statesman

There is a touching, reflexive glance backward in much of what Fuchs writes — a sense of the irretrievable in life.
—Art Winslow, Los Angeles Times Book Review

The greatest strength of Fuchs’s writing is the way it captures the distinctive tones of Jewish speech.
—Adam Kirsch, New York Sun

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Daniel Fuchs was born in New York City in 1909. He published four novels and dozens of short stories, memoirs, and essays. He also wrote screenplays, and in 1955 received an Academy Award for his original story for Love Me or Leave Me. He died in Los Angeles in 1993.