John Sayles Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

John Sayles has written three novels: The Pride of the Bimbos (1975); Union Dues (1977), which was nominated for both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award; and Los Gusanos (the worms, 1991). With Gavin Smith, he published Sayles on Sayles (1998), in which he discusses his career and his films. In addition, his Thinking in Pictures: The Making of the Movie “Matewan,” which concerns his shooting of the mining film, was published in 1987. He has written many screenplays, a television series, and even one-act plays.


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

John Sayles’s “I-80 Nebraska, m.490-m.205” (1975) and his “Breed” (1977) won O. Henry Awards. He has made twelve feature films and in 1983 received a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation (“genius”) Award: a grant of thirty thousand dollars per year for five years, tax-free.


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Bourjaily, Vance. “A Revivalism of Realism.” The New York Times Book Review (April 1, 1979): 15, 33. Lengthy review of The Anarchists’ Convention, stressing Sayles’s links to the realism of Theodore Dreiser and James Farrell, tempered by a limited amount of optimism. He also points out Sayles’s fascination with the technical details of particular kinds of work, usually jobs Sayles has had at one point in his life.

Butscher, Edward. “Books in Brief: The Anarchists’ Convention.” Saturday Review 6 (April 28, 1979): 46. Butscher suggests that Sayles’s tendency toward sentimentality, caused by his sympathy for his lower-class characters, occasionally interferes with his ability to translate “acute psychological insights into viable fiction.”

Epps, Garrett. “Tales of the Working Class.” Book World—The Washington Post, April 29, 1979, p. M5. Epps focuses on the blue-collar workers in Sayles’s fiction and praises his “unerring ear for American speech.” According to Epps, Sayles presents keen observations about America in the 1970’s and succeeds in depicting characters without caricature or sentiment.

Carson, Diane, ed. John Sayles: Interviews. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1999. Carson’s questions are primarily about Sayles’s films, but...

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