Weideman, Edward C.

Hobo Life in the Great Depression
2005 0-7734-6024-1
In an age when the discovery and publication of forgotten or unknown texts, and the rediscovery of neglected works, are helping to expand the canon of literature with all its distinctively American characteristics, the publication of Edward C. Weideman’s book is a significant event. His writing provides a classic expression of the American experience sometimes labeled in literary studies as “modernism,” which encompasses the early twentieth-century search for the meaning of life in an era of social and economic breakdown, characterized by a sense of loss of a stable, secure world based on a belief in and reliance on absolute truth. The hobo narrative achieves a vividness, authenticity, and directness which might be termed “virtue of location,” drawing the reader into a time warp of Chinatown in Chicago and later the small-town life of Midwestern America in the 1930s, placing it in the tradition of such writers as Walt Whitman, John Steinbeck, Willa Cather, Sinclair Lewis, and Hamlin Garland. The three short stories, written at a time when that genre was receiving increasing recognition as a serious art form, include a poignant tale of a teenager’s rite of passage through humiliation over his father’s perceived lack of education to a profound respect for his father’s wisdom and courage, a story about two old maids who hatch a plot against their ailing older brother that ends in a delightfully humorous final twist, and a macabre tale of a bizarre series of events, reminiscent of Poe.