William Humphrey Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

ph_0111207194-Humphrey.jpg William Humphrey Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Novelist William Humphrey began his literary career in the late 1940’s as a short-story writer, contributing to a number of the United States’ better magazines—The New Yorker, Accent, Esquire, and The Atlantic—and publishing a collection of stories before his first novel appeared. His stories have attracted favorable critical comment, but most commentators rate his novels above his stories. Of his novels, the best known are Home from the Hill (1958) and The Ordways (1965); he also wrote Hostages to Fortune (1984) and No Resting Place (1989). Many critics think Humphrey’s best piece of writing is Farther Off from Heaven (1977), a memoir of the first thirteen years of his life. In addition to his fiction, Humphrey authored several hunting and fishing stories first published in magazines and later reprinted as small books: The Spawning Run (1970), My Moby Dick (1978), and Open Season: Sporting Adventures (1986).


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

The publisher Alfred A. Knopf called William Humphrey’s Home from the Hill the best novel to come out of Texas. The book earned for Humphrey the Carr P. Collins Award of the Texas Institute of Letters for best book of fiction by a Texas author in 1958, and it was a finalist for the National Book Award. The success of Humphrey’s first novel, which was made into a popular motion picture in 1960, led to his winning a grant from the National Institute of Arts and Letters, which aided him in the writing of his second novel, The Ordways, which was selected by the Literary Guild, enjoyed six printings in its first year, and won for Humphrey a second Texas Institute of Letters prize. In 1995 Humphrey also received the Lon Tinkle Award from the Texas Institute of Letters for excellence sustained throughout a career.


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Almon, Bert. William Humphrey: Destroyer of Myths. Denton: University of North Texas Press, 1998. A comprehensive critical study of Humphrey’s fiction, including a discussion of the role of Texas as a setting in his work. Includes a bibliography and an index.

Crowder, Ashby Bland. Wakeful Anguish: A Literary Biography of William Humphrey. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2004. Incorporating personal interviews and correspondence, Crowder’s biography sheds light on the man and his work.

Givner, Joan. “Katherine Anne Porter: The Old Order and the New.” In The Texas Literary Tradition, edited by Don Graham et al. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1983. Though Humphrey’s name does not appear in the title, Givner argues that Humphrey and fellow Texan William Goyen were greatly under the influence of Porter. Here and in the biography that she wrote on Porter, Givner traces Porter’s influence on the two younger writers and says that they were eager to imitate Porter and win her favor with letters and flowery dedications. The essay is interesting also in showing the treatment Porter received in the male-dominated Texas literary establishment of the 1930’s and 1940’s.

Graham, Don. “Regionalism on the Ramparts: The Texas Literary Tradition.” USA Today 115 (July, 1986): 74-76. Discusses five distinct literary regions in Texas: East Texas, West Texas, the Gulf Coast, the Border Valley, and Urban Texas. Notes how the southern culture of Texas was depicted by George Sessions Perry during the 1940’s and by three East Texans—William Goyen, William Humphrey, and William A. Owens—during the 1950’s and 1960’s.

Grider, Sylvia, and Elizabeth Tebeaux. “Blessings into Curses: Sardonic Humor and Irony in ‘A Job of the Plains.’” Studies in Short Fiction 23 (1986): 297-306. The authors of this essay focus on Humphrey’s short story “A Job of the...

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