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News Link • Vin Suprynowicz's Columns Archive

The Great Writers produced by the Federal Writers' Project


That's good advice as far as it goes. Writers who later became well-known, from Nelson Algren to Richard Wright, from John Cheever to Studs Terkel to Ralph Ellison, were indeed at one time or another on the federal dole during the late 1930s, drawing pay from the aforementioned Writers' Project to work on state-by-state guidebooks, or any other make-work schemes the New Deal bureaucrats could dream up. (Artists unable to produce works anyone would purchase voluntarily were even hired to do mosaics in subway stations, beginning a great tradition of forcing bad, urine-stained works of art on those who had been stripped of the right to refuse to fund them.)

Even though the contributions of these notables-to-be were generally anonymous, most of these guidebooks can be worth a few bucks; it's wise to keep an eye out for them.

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