Although she published many novels, Kay Boyle was recognized principally for her shorter works. First published in the small magazines of the 1920’s, her early stories were collected in Wedding Day, and Other Stories (1930) and The First Lover, and Other Stories (1933). Active as an editor and critic on small magazines such as Contempo and on progressive political journals, Boyle also translated the works of such European writers as Joseph Delteil, Raymond Radiguet, and Marie-Louise Soupault. Two volumes of her short stories, The Smoking Mountain: Stories of Postwar Germany (1951) and Nothing Ever Breaks Except the Heart (1966), reflect wartime and postwar Europe. Collected in Fifty Stories (1980), Boyle’s short fiction appeared in American periodicals for decades.
Boyle’s poetry, also first published in small magazines, was collected in A Glad Day (1938) and Collected Poems (1962). Her volume of poetry titled American Citizen Naturalized in Leadville, Colorado (1944), based on the experience of an Austrian refugee in the U.S. military, is dedicated to writer Carson McCullers, “whose husband is also overseas,” and Testament for My Students, and Other Poems (1970) concerns “that desperate year, 1968.” This Is Not a Letter, and Other Poems (1985) appeared fifteen years later.
As a European correspondent after World War II, Boyle wrote nonfiction prose of both journalistic and literary distinction, including her reportage of the war crimes trial of Heinrich Babb for The New Yorker and her essays on civil rights and the military establishment. Her edited volume The Autobiography of Emanuel Carnevali (1967) and her chapters in Robert McAlmon’s Being Geniuses Together, 1920-1930 (1968) capture the literary underground of that period, and a subsequent collection, The Long Walk at San Francisco State, and Other Essays (1970), reflects the antiwar movement of the 1960’s. Boyle also published three illustrated children’s novels: The Youngest Camel (1939, 1959) and the Pinky novels (1966 and 1968).