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Never Been Rich

The Life and Work of a Southern Ruralist Writer, Harry Harrison Kroll

Richard Saunders

Publication Year: 2011

Known for his sometimes-gritty naturalism and use of Appalachian dialect, Harry Harrison Kroll (1888–1967) was a remarkably prolific Tennessee novelist and short-story writer during the middle decades of the twentieth century. His career spanned two of the three major shifts in publishing during the twentieth century: the heyday and decline of the fiction magazine market during the late 1920s, and the rise of nonfiction and solidification of paperback marketing during the 1950s. Never Been Rich explores details of Kroll’s humble, rural youth, his long delayed education and the development of his craft, before discussing his lengthy career and how it reflected changes in both public taste and the American publishing industry. Kroll focused on writing not as a high art, but instead on what was popular—what would earn him a living. He preferred to write voluminously rather than exquisitely, and growing up in the rural south provided him with a broad and fertile field of experience to plow for his crop of stories. As a writing instructor, he had a profound influence on his students, particularly the well-known Appalachian triumvirate of James Still, Jesse Stuart, and Don West. While Kroll may lack grand literary significance, Richard Saunders maintains that we should explore not merely the linguistic and thematic aspects of a writer’s work but also its broad economic and social contexts, including the idea that literature is both an art form and a marketable product in an extensive industry. His study of Kroll delves deeply into those contexts and shows that, while Kroll did not strive for a place among writers of high literature, he exemplifies the far more widely read popular literature of his times.

Published by: The University of Tennessee Press

Title Page, Copyright

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Contents / Illustrations

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pp. vii-x

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pp. xi-xii

No book produces itself and no author writes biography or history alone. I must, simply must, thank the Kroll family and close friends, all of whom have been both kind and generous throughout this process: Harry Jr. and Nelle Kroll, Robert T. and Edith Kroll, and Claudia Hicks. Each has contributed materially to the Kroll...

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pp. xiii-xvi

Readership is fickle and reputation fleeting for the vast majority of writers. Interest in a writer’s work rarely transcends generations. Who today, other than the most focused academic specialist, reads or even remembers the work of Ellen Glasgow, Arthur Machen, Robert Nathan, or Elinor Wylie? Paul Leicester Ford was one of the...

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Chapter 1: A Poor-Man’s Boy, 1888–1921

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pp. 1-33

A factual picture of Harry Kroll’s early life is obscured by the shading and stories he redrew about himself and his family in later years.1 To his three sons he was as honest as any parent is about his upbringing, but throughout his “autobiographical” writing Kroll consistently spun the story that his parents were...

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Chapter 2: More Than One Kind of Education, 1921–1935

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pp. 35-105

In 1921, Nashville was one of the South’s largest urban metropolises, and the only major city in the triangle between New Orleans, Louisville, and Atlanta. With a population of nearly 120,000, the city’s hilly streets were beginning to chuff and chug with automobiles, some of them produced in the Marathon Automobile plant a mile...

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Chapter 3: College Professor, American Novelist, 1936–1958

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pp. 107-171

“Nobody knew what would happen,” remembered Bruce Bliven of the New Republic. The Great Depression “was like being on a falling elevator when you don’t know how far it is to the bottom—or what you will find there.” Worse than the remorseless economics of depression was the sense of directionlessness and instability that...

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Chapter 4: Professor Emeritus, 1958–1967

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pp. 173-205

Though Harry Kroll had always dedicated himself to writing during his summer breaks from teaching, the change in status from being a full-time teacher to an emeritus professor left Harry without a defined responsibility or employment for the first time that he could remember. He was sixty-seven and retirement looked like a good...

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Chapter 5: Harry Harrison Kroll as Litterateur: Lessons

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pp. 207-215

To be considered great fiction, it is said, a story must illustrate or reveal something truthful and universally timeless about the human condition. Harry Kroll understood human circumstances, but rarely and perhaps only accidentally did he lift his eyes from the metaphorical furrow behind his rural plough to squint dimly at larger...


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pp. 217-238


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pp. 239-246

E-ISBN-13: 9781572338388
E-ISBN-10: 1572338385
Print-ISBN-13: 9781572338258
Print-ISBN-10: 1572338253

Page Count: 264
Illustrations: 23 photographs
Publication Year: 2011