Daniel Fuchs

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(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

By the end of the twentieth century, Daniel Fuchs (fyewks) was best known for his first three novels, Summer in Williamsburg, Homage to Blenholt, and Low Company, which became known as his Williamsburg trilogy. These books, many critics feel, are pioneering works in Jewish American literature that paved the way for some of the greatest Jewish American writers of the second half of the twentieth century, such as Saul Bellow, Philip Roth, and Bernard Malamud. Nonetheless, few twentieth century readers were familiar with any of Fuchs’s stories or novels.

Fuchs’s parents immigrated to the United States from Eastern Europe. Daniel, their fifth child, was born on the lower East Side of New York City, then a largely immigrant Jewish neighborhood. When Daniel was five, his family moved to Williamsburg, in Brooklyn, which became the source from which Fuchs drew the inspiration and much of the material for his trilogy. There, Daniel’s father started selling newspapers and eventually had a concession stand in the Whitehall Building on Battery Place. Fuchs avidly read the newspapers and magazines his father sold and spent much time attending movies and reading novels, activities that would influence his writing.

He graduated from City College in New York in 1930 with a major in philosophy. While there, he wrote for and then edited the college’s literary magazine, The Lavender. After graduating, he taught at Public School 225 in Brighton Beach in Brooklyn. In 1932 he married Susan Chessen. He then wrote and published the Williamsburg trilogy. In the introduction to Three Novels, he complains about how few copies the books sold. In the same introduction, he tells about being disillusioned by the small amount of money that the novels earned and turning to short-story writing instead, publishing in magazines like The New Yorker, Esquire, and The Saturday Evening Post and earning good money for his stories.

The Williamsburg trilogy does not fit neatly into any category. Fuchs objected to calling it a trilogy. Each volume stands independently, with different characters and slightly different settings. Still, all three novels involve the ideas that modern society has no moral center and no god presiding over it. In the first two novels, gangsters receive adulation and riches, while hardworking, honest people remain in obscure poverty. In the last novel of the trilogy, it is difficult to find anyone who is honest. A large, faceless crime syndicate drives out a petty criminal as it organizes the prostitution business in the city; everyone loses.

In 1937, Fuchs accepted a thirteen-week contract to write screenplays for Radio Corporation of America. Apparently dissatisfied with Hollywood, he returned to the East after the contract expired but went back to Hollywood in the early 1940’s when Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer bought the rights to one of his stories, “The Fabulous Rubio.” He stayed in Hollywood, except when, during World War II, he served in the Navy’s Office of Strategic Services, mostly in Washington, D.C. He wrote many screenplays, including the one for Love Me or Leave Me , on which he collaborated with Isobel Lennart. The screenplay was...

(The entire section is 755 words.)