A Book Talk about Jim Tully

I was delighted a few weeks ago when Paul Bauer and Mark Dawidziak, authors of Jim Tully: American Writer, Irish Rover, and Hollywood Brawler, my favorite biography of 2011, came to NYU to speak about their book at NYU’s Glucksman Ireland House. I’d been in touch with Paul and Mark last November after I blogged about the book in a piece called Lost American Writer Found–Jim Tully and so was excited to attend their talk and meet them in person, especially because my artist wife Kyle Gallup and our actor and writer son Ewan, would be coming with me.

Paul and Mark gave a great talk, using photographs and film clips to anatomize the story of Tully’s life. Their book chronicles the life of the hobo writer-turned Hollywood insider who minted the hardboiled style of prose that would become even better known later on in the books of Raymond Chandler, James M. Cain, and Dashiell Hammett. The pictures accompanying this post should give you some flavor of their talk. It was a treat meeting them afterward, and the next day, having Paul over to our apartment for tea and rugelach. He’s been a second-hand book dealer for many years and so it was great to not only talk about Tully, whose early book Circus Parade I’d been reading, but also to show Paul volumes from our library.

Last November I wrote this about their book, which I stand by today as my summing up of the authors’ visit to New York City.

“Biographers Bauer and Dawidziak steep the reader in Tully’s lifelong struggle to make himself into a significant person; glimpsing his continual act of self-creation is what I found thrilling about this book. The authors chronicle how even in relatively prosperous years, he continued striving to create himself and forge his work. . . . What’s great about the Tully bio–and other books like it that achieve this deep level of discourse with their subject’s life–is that the reader has a chance to assemble, in ways the biographer shows one how to do, how a literary career is lived and aspired toward, and achieved. The successful biography spans the decades and folds of a life, making the living subject comprehensible and one whom we understand. That’s what happened for me with Jim Tully: American Writer, Irish Rover, Hollywood Brawler, and why this book will be on my best list for 2011.”

Lost American Writer Found–Jim Tully

Until recently, I had not read even one of the fourteen books by the early- to mid-twentieth-century American writer Jim Tully (1886-1947) and knew little about him. Given my personal interest in Tully’s subject matter, which included circuses, hoboes, and riding the rails, springing from his twin milieux, rural Ohio and early Hollywood, I’m surprised at myself for having been slow to pick up on him. Now having sampled his work and discovered what an important and successful literary career he made in his life by reading the excellent new biography of him, Jim Tully: American Writer, Irish Rover, Hollywood Brawler, I’m going to do my part here to redress this widespread case of historical amnesia. I believe that now–especially in light of the Occupy movement and the attention it’s drawing to the economic distress afflicting millions in our society–is an ideal time for Jim Tully to be rediscovered. / / more . . .