Misreading 'The Last Hurrah'?

James Michael Curley in 1922, during his second term as mayor.

James Michael Curley in 1922, during his second term as mayor.

"The misreading of The Last Hurrah (Edwin O'Connor's novel loosely based on the career of the late Boston Mayor  James Michael Curley  (1874-1958)-- "The Rascal King''} came with certain costs. The book's acceptance as an authentic account of Boston's political culture helped steer attention away from critical aspects of the city's history....{T}he eagerness with which so many Americans embraced The Last Hurrah as a celebration of machine politics helped obscure the range of civic activism that circulated in ethnic America. Working-class  immigrants and the politicians who represented them developed their own reform visions, often in opposition to party bosses...We risk dehumanizing ethnics when we assume that their politics amounted to little more than an exchange of votes for services, however personal the help may have been.''

-- James J. Connolly, in his article "The Last Hurrah and Pluralist Vision of American Politics,'' in the book Boston's Histories: Essays in Honor of {historian} Thomas H. O'Connor.

Editor's Note: Curley, however corrupt, had superb political talents, including a capacious memory. My paternal grandfather, who helped run a shoe company in Brockton, met and chatted with Curley at an event in the late '20s. He next ran into the pol in 1952. Curley greeted him by name (Henry) and asked him how Margaret, my grandmother, was. 

-- Robert Whitcomb