Ten thousand people died from it in NYC the year prior and the health department declares 31,631 living cases currently exist there. And Sara’s concern about her chronic cough increase when a young man pushes a pamphlet into her hand. She returns the next day, without Charley, and Eddie recognizes her and shares part of his story. “T.B.” was first published in The Saturday Evening Post on January 9, 1915 and was included in the following year’s collection Every Soul Hath Its Song.
In another, set on the “lowly lands of the East Side” in the Bowery, the Kantors’ oilcloth-covered table has a centerpiece of heavy Russian lace. Russian spoons with worn-away gilt are set alongside thick lipped china and there is black bread ready to be torn into chunks and eaten with a rich black soup. With a pink-frosted birthday cake to follow, for Leon’s fifth birthday. Mamma Kantor wants Mannie to buy his son a fiddle because she’s convinced he’s a musical genius. The other children are grumpy because their birthdays are not happening. In one part of the story, the strain is how to afford a birthday present. Later, it’s “human hayricks of battle-fields” and “Belgium disemboweled, her very entrails dragging”. This story covers a lot of time and space, but the swaths of dialogue and human detail make it something of a page-turner. “Humoresque” was first published in Cosmopolitan in March 1919, collected with other stories in a volume with the same title later the same year, filmed in 1920 (directed by Frank Borzage) and again in 1946 (directed by Jean Negulesco).
And, in another, the Bon Ton Hotel is a family-owned, 14-story-tall business, which rents rooms for $60/week and forbids dogs and cooking. The men have “Wall Street eyes and blood pressure”, the boys have patent-leather hair, and the girls have their “traditions of demure sixteen hanging by one-inch shoulder straps”. There, Carrie Samstag agrees to marry Louis Latz, but only if he accepts her daughter, Alma, too. At eighteen, this is hardly a prerequisite, but Carrie considers Alma her “shadow”, so dependent on her has Carrie become. Louis is willing—but Alma is not. Is she a “regular girl”? or a “she-devil”? And what of Leo Friedlander, Alma’s fine suitor? Mother-daughter relationships are important in Hurst’s writing and even though this story is 30 pages long, the dialogue and plot keep the reader engaged. “She Walks in Beauty” was first published in Cosmopolitan in August 1921 and collected in the volume, The Vertical City, the following year, along with a few “Best Short Story” collections in that decade.
What a discovery. (Made while browsing the DVD shelves in a neighbourhood library branch and stumbling upon John Stahl’s 1934 film, Imitation of Life, based on Hurst’s writing.)