Short stories by Harvey Swados

The author and social critic Harvey Swados (1920-1972) was a graduate of the University of Michigan who embarked on a literary life after service in the Merchant Marine during the Second World War. His first novel, Out Went the Candle (1955), introduced the themes to which Swados would return throughout his career, the alienation of factory workers and the experience of the working class in industrial America. His other works include a widely read collection of stories set in an auto plant, On the Line, the novels False Coin (1959), Standing Fast (1970), and Celebration (1975), and a noted collection of essays A Radical’s America (1962). His essay for Esquire magazine, “Why Resign from the Human Race?,” is often cited as inspiring the formation of the Peace Corps. The Swados collection includes journals, notes, typewritten drafts of novels and short stories, galley proofs, clippings, and correspondence concerning writings; letters from family, publishers, literary agents, colleagues, friends, and readers, including Richard Hofstadter, Saul Bellow, James Thomas Farrell, Herbert Gold, Irving Howe, Bernard Malamud, and Charles Wright Mills; letters from Swados, especially to family, friends, and editors; book reviews; notes, background material, and drafts of speeches and lectures; financial records; biographical and autobiographical sketches; bibliographies.

Biographical Note Harvey Swados, novelist and social critic, was born in Buffalo, New York, October 28, 1920, and died in Amherst, Massachusetts, December 11, 1972. His parents were Aaron Meyer Swados, a physician, and Rebecca Bluestone Swados, a painter. He married Bette Beller September 12, 1946. Their children are Marco, born 1947, Felice, 1949, and Robin, 1953. Swados received his B.A. in 1940 from the University of Michigan. From 1948, the Swados’ “permanent” home was at Valley Cottage, Rockland County, New York, 20 miles north of Manhattan, until their move to Amherst, Massachusetts in 1970. Cagnes-Sur-Mer in Southern France was considered a second home. Harvey Swados had two principal passions: politics and literature. “By temperament and conviction he was a socialist…His belief in the possibilities of a just society was as primitive in faith as it was sophisticated in judgment” (Katz, Leslie, “Thoughts after Harvey Swados” in American Journal, 4-10-73). According to Swados: “I remain a social radical, at once dismayed and exhilarated by my seemingly doomed yet endlessly optimistic native land” (unpublished autobiography). “To call himself a socialist meant for Harvey most of all to preserve the power of moral responsiveness…It meant, as he wrote…, ‘My kinship has been with those writers who imply, even as they treat of trouble and terror, that the world could be better just as my commitment has been to those human beings who believe-despite every awful evidence to the contrary-that the world must be better'” (Howe, Irving, “Harvey Swados 1920-1972” in Dissent, Spring 1973). Swados wrote both fiction and non-fiction. However, “a good deal of Swados’ most effective work appears in his stories, a genre in which he takes chances and more often than not succeeds in making art out of his severe social criticism” (Shapiro, Charles, “Harvey Swados: Private Stories and Public Fiction” in Contemporary American Novelists, edited by Harry T. Moore, Southern Illinois University Press, 1964). His awards and honors through the years included: Hudson Review fellowship in fiction, 1957-58; Sidney Hillman Award, for “The Myth of the Happy Worker”, 1958; Guggenheim fellowship, 1961-62; Philip M. Stern Family Fund Magazine Grant Program for UAW article, 1963; American Academy of Arts and Letters and the National Institute of Arts and Letters Award in literature, 1965; Arts and Letters grant for art, 1965; University of Michigan Sesquicentennial Award, 1967; National Endowment for the Arts grant for fiction, 1967-68; Judge in 1970 Fiction Division of National Book Awards competition; and Five short stories included in Best American Short Stories annual volumes. He held professional memberships in the Authors League and P.E.N. Swados played the flute, in chamber music with friends and in a local orchestra. Irving Howe states that “part of the fun of visiting the Swadoses was always the sense one had of a rich, intense family life, with its interweaving of politics and music and theater, its incomparable closeness and devotion” (Howe, “Harvey Swados 1920-1972”).

Listing 6 stories.

A composer returns to his hometown on the East coast to visit the daughter he hasn't seen in twelve years, trying to amend his absence and find the words to describe the unhappiness he feels, despite his fame and success.

A middle-aged writer turns back the clock by twenty years and narrates his ill-fated romance with the beautiful but unattainable girl from his memories.

A day in the life of a businessman consists of questioning the meaning of life and closing in on a dangerous business venture in the midst of WWII.

To earn enough money for college, a high school graduate takes a grueling factory job. He expects his only takeaway from the work to be a paycheck, but a mysterious coworker teaches him about the world and his place in it.

Frustrated with the state of his own marriage, a sailor finds himself in a state of unbearable anger when the ship's engineer divulges his fiancée's private correspondence, leading to a confrontation between the two men.

A struggling writer finally completes his novel, only to have his original voice corrupted by the demands of his publisher. His supportive family cannot understand why he is unhappy with his success - but after a tragic accident leads to his death, they find solace in the remnants of his work.