The Stories of Fannie Hurst
Introduction by Susan Koppelman
In her heyday, between 1910 and the mid-1930's, Fannie Hurst was the most popular writer in America, and was reputed to be the highest-paid short story writer in the world. Twenty-nine films were based on her novels and short stories. Her fiction was not only beloved by readers, but also acclaimed by reviewers and regularly included in Best American Short Stories. And Fannie Hurst herself was something of a celebrity: The New York Times reported on her comings and goings, and her involvement and philanthropic support were covered by numerous progressive political, cultural, and social service organizations. Leon Trotsky claimed to have memorized one of her novels, and she was a frequent guest of her friend, Eleanor Roosevelt, at the White House.
In spite of all this, few readers today know Fannie Hurst's name, much less her work. The postwar critical establishment branded Hurst a mere "popular" author who wrote for and about the working classes—and worse still, a "sob sister" (the title of one of her stories) whose books appealed most strongly to women. This assessment denied her a place in the canon of American letters; at present, not a single book by Fannie Hurst is in print.
The publication of The Stories of Fannie Hurst, a selection of Fannie Hurst's best short stories, is sure to propel a long overdue revival and reassessment of Hurst's work. These thirty stories, spanning the years 1912 to 1935, reveal Hurst's depth, intelligence, and artistry as a writer.
"Fannie Hurst's work is part of the bedrock and architecture of the American short story. She wrote about people who worked, people who fell into the various abysses of city life, about love that saved a life and love that brought catastrophe to everyone around it, about families changing. She was unashamed of loving such a wide range of people, and she saw them and wrote them as clearly as she knew how. She is the mother of Grace Paley and Tillie Olsen, and of Philip Roth and Bernard Malamud as well."
"'Fannie Hurst unabashedly spoke to the human heart. That is the best epitaph for any writer.' So said the New York Times tribute to Hurst on her death in 1968. Perhaps a better epitaph still is the opportunity provided by this fine collection, assembled and introduced by Hurst's most astute and passionate champion, to see some of her best work back in print."
"The stories in this collection make clear why Fannie Hurst remains one of the major short story writers in American literary history. The knowing and loving eye she casts on working-class people, whether in New York, St. Louis, or rural Ohio, will cause another generation of readers to celebrate her anew."