Daniel Fuchs Essay - Critical Essays

Fuchs, Daniel (Vol. 22)


Daniel Fuchs 1909–

American novelist, short story writer, and screenwriter.

Fuchs was born in New York but has lived in Holly wood since the thirties. While he won an Academy Award for his screenplay, Love Me or Leave Me, Fuchs's literary reputation will survive on the basis of three novels written in the thirties that were rediscovered in 1961. Homage to Blenholt, Low Company, and Summer in Williamsburg depict the lives of Jewish slumdwellers in Brooklyn with humor and pathos. In retrospect his trilogy is a significant forerunner of the modern Jewish novel associated with Malamud, Roth, and Bellow.

(See also CLC, Vol. 8. Contemporary Authors, Vols. 81-84, and Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol. 9: American Novelists, 1910–1945.)

Irving Howe

In the writing of fiction, talent came almost as easily to Daniel Fuchs as to Willie Mays in the hitting of baseballs. There is a kind of performer whom we call "a natural," so completely do his gifts appear to be spontaneous and inborn; and Daniel Fuchs was precisely that, the natural as writer. In the mid-Thirties … he published three novels in quick succession—Summer in Williamsburg, Homage to Blenholt, and Low Company….

Fuchs drew upon his own experience as a boy growing up in Williamsburg, that grimy edge of Brooklyn where for decades poor Jews had been struggling for bread and air; but his work was marvelously free of the self-pity and proclaimed sensitivity that mar so much...

(The entire section is 672 words.)

John Thompson

[How] strangely the words and the phrases [of West of the Rockies] seem to lie on the page—to me a puzzle more perplexing than Burgess's wild language. I suppose I just haven't the key to it. I lack the responses that would lift the words into life.

I can try to explain it this way. The story is about a time in the late 50's, before Hollywood's decline: a screen star, someone of the stature of Rita Hayworth or Ava Gardner, is on the run to Palm Springs with a small-time agent, kept man of a rich wife. The star is in hysterics and is endangering a major production. Various people try to get her back to work.

Now, as this story makes itself known to us, it is very much a...

(The entire section is 259 words.)

Mordecai Richler

["The Apathetic Bookie Joint" is] a collection of those stories the author wishes most to preserve, and a hitherto-unpublished Hollywood novella, "Triplicate." The first of these stories appeared in The New Yorker in 1938, and the last in Commentary in 1975. They begin, as did Mr. Fuchs himself, in Williamsburg. Brooklyn…. And they culminate in affluent Beverly Hills…. (p. 9)

Mr. Fuchs seems to appear as himself, or an only thinly disguised character, in all these stories, the best of which are the early ones, deeply rooted in Williamsburg. These stories are prescient, laconic and poignant. They speak of sour barbers, forlorn bookies, bankrupt butchers and foolish fat girls driven to pretending...

(The entire section is 374 words.)

Irving Howe

What strikes one first of all about Daniel Fuchs's novels and stories, especially if they're compared to the work of other "Jewish American" writers, is that Fuchs has no designs on his readers. No large thoughts, no postcards to deaf intellectuals, no theories about the future of the novel, not even grudges against relatives.

Fuchs is a pure novelist…. The traditional act of imitation, putting down a picture-in-language of how people live at a certain time, a certain place absorbs him fully and may even, he writes, yield "a sense of well-being arising from the scene and the people."

This belief in the sufficiency of rendering has hardly dominated twentieth-century writing, and it...

(The entire section is 1257 words.)

Gabriel Miller

Fuchs does not offer solutions to … social problems. There are none.

This is not to say that Fuchs did not criticize the system. There is in his writing an implied criticism of capitalism…. Fuchs's world is full of corruption and violence, and he demonstrates repeatedly that one must be dishonest and corrupt to succeed. (pp. 22-3)

It is wrong, however, to emphasize too strongly the social strain in Fuchs…. His themes go beyond the Depression, and his people are in many ways different even from those created by his Jewish contemporaries…. [Frustration] has a direct influence in Fuchs's fiction, generating the major themes of his early work, escape and entrapment, as well as...

(The entire section is 3213 words.)

Richard Elman

The early stories [appearing in The Apathetic Bookie Joint] though colorful …, seem to me to have been done largely as hack work for hack magazines; and they, too, bear the deformations of their martyrdoms: a pandering to types, a tic of colloquial language asserting itself rather too heavily, at times, like paprika in a cream sauce, and far too many colorful characters with odd streetwise things to say. But this is not the case with some of Fuchs's later, more thoughtful accounts of Hollywood experience through fiction and essay-vignette. Ruminative, observant and gentle, without the caricaturist's meanness, the writer of such stories must have depended on memory to look steadily at people and social...

(The entire section is 717 words.)

Harold Beaver

[With] The Apathetic Bookie Joint Daniel Fuchs has at last made a comeback. It is a most welcome event.

For with this collection of his short fiction a prodigal returns. His youthful ambition had been to record the trapped and alienated lives of his native Brooklyn…. A peculiar blend of irony with good humour gave his writing a flavour all its own. The move from Brooklyn to Los Angeles in 1937, it now turns out, did nothing to queer the tone. If anything, it was enriched.

Stories like "The Golden West" (1954), or "Twilight in Southern California" (1953), or the more recent "Triplicate", will surely rank with The Day of the Locust among the major fictional expressions...

(The entire section is 1106 words.)