THE CHILDREN by Howard Fast


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Even to a public hardened to Farrell and Caroline Slade, this short novel (or more accurately long short story) by Howard Fast will have repercussions. The average reader will find it profoundly shocking, not only in its virtually unrelieved sordidness and what will be miscalled ""honesty"" and ""frankness"" but in its clinical expose' of the effect of poverty on the children. Written and published some twelve years ago in Story, this brought the surely linked censorship and sales stimulus. I don't think we are very different today. Written out of bitterness and memory and anger, here is a sordid vignette of slum children conditioned by poverty, ignorance, prejudice, intolerance, ignoble aspirations and fears. There is no relief- though a brief glimpse into a humble Italian home, where affection is fleetingly displayed gives some measure of balance. The children themselves are subjects for case studies:- Ollie, Irish mick, loader of the gang, cruel, at times vicious; Ishky, inheriting the cross of his race (the story is told through his eyes); Shomake, sensitive Italian lad loving his fiddle-gropingly seeking to share a fleeting dream garden with Ishky; Marie, Italian child who fears and is fascinated by experiments with sex in dark halls and cellars; Thomas Edison, subnormal, who at the close jumps from the roof; and Blackbelly, Negro lad and leader of their gang, with whose lynching by the white gang the story ends. Privy language, at back fence scratching level, no vestige of relief in humor, combine to increase the bad taste left by the story itself. I can't see that it adds to Howard Fast's reputation -- merely perhaps indicates another facet to his ability.

Pub Date: March 19th, 1947
Publisher: Duell, Sloan & Pearce