James T. Farrell

On this mild mid-Fall Chicago day, I paid a visit today to the grave of James T. Farrell in Evanston’s Calvary Cemetery. I place Farrell in the quartet of great Chicago writers, along with Saul Bellow, Richard Wright and Nelson Algren. Yet of these four, only Farrell has his final resting place in the area. Bellow and Algren are buried on the East Coast, while Wright is interred in Paris. 

Farrell wrote the brilliant Studs Lonigan trilogy, a tale of a South Side Irish young man’s transformation to early adulthood. Lonigan leaves behind the parochialism and bigotry of his Washington Park Irish ghetto during the Depression and escapes across the Park to cosmopolitan Hyde Park. As Joyce mocked the provincialism of Dubliners, so did Farrell of Chicago’s Irish. Both authors were not appreciated in their hometowns, and each left for their own self-imposed exiles.

As I walked around the environs of Farrell’s grave in this Catholic cemetery, I saw that he is buried in the company of Chicago mayors, priests and nuns. A final irony in the life and death of Farrell, an erstwhile Trotskyist and fervid excoriator of clergy and politicians.       

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