For those interested in the professional (and personal) relationships between author and publisher, the SCPC is proud to have the James Conway collection relating to James T. Farrell and William Targ (Ms. Coll. 1438) open for research use, serving as an excellent companion to the James T. Farrell papers (Ms. Coll. 886).
James T. Farrell (1907-1979) was an American writer born into a South Side Chicago working-class Irish-Catholic family. Farrell is recognized as a leading figure for 20th century naturalism in American literature through his brutally realistic depiction of his childhood conditions and environment, additionally drawing inspiration from the writings and social attitudes of John Dewey, Theodore Dreiser, and Leon Trotsky. Over a nearly fifty year period, Farrell wrote and published his work in a variety of formats, including short-stories, poetry, literary criticism, and especially novels. Among his many publications, he is best known for having written the Studs Lonigan trilogy. It should also be noted that he was a prolific writer of letters, known for developing personal relationships and ongoing discursive conversation with a variety of intellectuals, especially other authors and publishers.
Well-respected Chicago book editor and publisher, William Targ (1907-1999), began his career in 1925 at Macmillan Publishers. He left his post at the tender age of 22 to open his own rare book and first edition bookstore in 1929. He later worked for World Publishing Company eventually rising to the position of editor-in-chief, and for G. P. Putnam’s Sons. Upon retirement, he founded his own limited edition publishing company, Targ Editions. He is best known for publishing the novel, The Godfather, by Mario Puzo, recognized as the single most profitable novel ever published.
Plagued by the early success of the Studs Lonigan trilogy, the trajectory of Farrell’s writing career can be seen as one of slow decline from the very beginning. As evinced in his correspondence, he became deeply embittered by his own publishers, William Targ included. This collection, predominantly comprised of correspondence with Targ from 1945 to 1969, provides tremendous insight into the slow death of a professional and personal relationship between the author and the publisher. The handwritten correspondence from Farrell reveals a slow decline in his handwriting, eventually rendering his letters virtually illegible. Thankfully, the donor and compiler of this collection, James Conway, made valiant attempts at transcribing some of the handwritten correspondence, but even he fell short of deciphering large swaths of content.
In addition to Farrell’s correspondence with Targ, there is correspondence with a select few other publishers, drafts to introductions for his books No Star is Lost and My Days of Anger, a small selection of other working files and publisher materials, obituaries, and some press coverage of events surrounding his centennial.
The James Conway collection relating to James T. Farrell and William Targ (Ms. Coll. 1438) finding aid can be found here.