Hobo Life in the Great Depression

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In an age when the discovery and publication of forgotten or unknown texts, and the rediscovery of neglected works, are helping to expand the canon of literature with all its distinctively American characteristics, the publication of Edward C. Weideman’s book is a significant event. His writing provides a classic expression of the American experience sometimes labeled in literary studies as “modernism,” which encompasses the early twentieth-century search for the meaning of life in an era of social and economic breakdown, characterized by a sense of loss of a stable, secure world based on a belief in and reliance on absolute truth. The hobo narrative achieves a vividness, authenticity, and directness which might be termed “virtue of location,” drawing the reader into a time warp of Chinatown in Chicago and later the small-town life of Midwestern America in the 1930s, placing it in the tradition of such writers as Walt Whitman, John Steinbeck, Willa Cather, Sinclair Lewis, and Hamlin Garland. The three short stories, written at a time when that genre was receiving increasing recognition as a serious art form, include a poignant tale of a teenager’s rite of passage through humiliation over his father’s perceived lack of education to a profound respect for his father’s wisdom and courage, a story about two old maids who hatch a plot against their ailing older brother that ends in a delightfully humorous final twist, and a macabre tale of a bizarre series of events, reminiscent of Poe.


“Edward C. Weideman’s [novella] and three short stories deserve special note and commendation. They are masterpieces of the craft of short fiction … Whatever the condition of the typescript that the editor worked with, she has produced an extraordinary text, seamless in its stylistic flow and thoroughly engrossing. This work of Edward C. Weideman’s deserves serious consideration for a prominent place in early 20th-century American literature ... the publication of this book is truly an event.” – (from the Commendatory Preface) Professor John R. May, Louisiana State University

“This is a remarkable collection of a novella and three short stories, all of which reflect life in the American Midwest in the 1930s as experienced by the author ... Normally, one would be skeptical that such works would be of much value except to the author and his family, but this is a rare case ... All four of the works are outstanding in what can only be called their wisdom about human nature, morality and conscience, and maturity into adulthood ... Edward C. Weideman could never have written such powerful fiction had he not, in the life he chose to live, been the selfless, mature, and caring man these prose works show him most certainly to have been.” – Professor David E. Middleton, Nicholls State University

"In making available to us the fiction of Edward C. Weideman, the editor has performed an invaluable service for all readers concerned with the interplay between region and imagination. Working as he did, in unwilled isolation from the literary marketplace of his time, Mr. Weideman was ironically free to develop a style and aesthetic that were uniquely his own ... This welcome volume of previously lost fiction is greatly enhanced by the perceptive and useful preface, and the generous and judicious bibliography ... It leaves the reader hoping that more of Edward C. Weideman's fiction will turn up." - Professor William Bedford Clark, Texas A&M University

Table of Contents

Commendatory Preface by John R. May
Bossy in a Bowl
A. Provoke Not Your Children
B. The Passing of John
C. Untimely Disclosure

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