Chute, Beatrice J(oy)

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CHUTE, Beatrice J(oy)

Born 3 January 1913, Minneapolis, Minnesota; died 1987

Wrote under: B. J. Chute

Daughter of William Young and Mary Pickburn Chute

The youngest of three literary sisters, Beatrice J. Chute worked for 10 years in her father's Minneapolis realty office until his death in 1930 prompted her to move to New York City with her scholarly sister Marchette and their forceful, English-born mother. As professor of writing at Barnard College, Chute also worked as a volunteer for 35 years with the New York Police Department's youth recreation program.

At nineteen Chute established her pen name with a juvenile sports story. Readers assumed B. J. Chute, author of over 50 formulaic stories about young male athletes, was a man. Her first novel, Blocking Back (1938), sets a prep school's tense popularity contest on the football field. The same rivalry in Shattuck Cadet (1940) divides a Minnesota Episcopal military academy between the letter and the spirit of its disciplinary code.

While Chute's sports stories were appearing regularly in Boy's Life and in her own collections, Shift to the Right (1944) and Teen-Age Sports Parade (1949), she adjusted the formula to popular romance for McCall's, Redbook, and Woman's Home Companion. In 1944, however, she abandoned formula writing.

In her most successful novel, Greenwillow (1956), Chute writes a lyric pastoral fantasy. Two ministers in amiable conflict preach delight and damnation to an innocent and isolated community. In an elegant style precisely descriptive of woodlands, kittens, and kitchen smells, Chute collects a pastiche of warm affections—from a farm boy's pride in a cow to the devotion of two aging spinster sisters. At its heart lies a love story of freshness and appealing charm. In 1960 Greenwillow was produced as a musical play by Lesser Samuels with a score by Frank Loesser. It played almost 100 performances in New York, winning praise for the energetic Halloween ballet, a real cow, and actor Anthony Perkins, who played Gideon.

In The Moon and the Thorn (1961) Chute makes a new statement with a courtship novel that unfolds three love stories. She imaginatively creates a folklore to reinterpret the theme of her realistic novels: the fault of infidelity is not love of one person but neglect of another. The sexual passion which can break family ties resolves into a memory under the power of a sister's understanding affection.

Lecturing to young writers in 1962 ("When the Writer Comes of Age"), Chute examined the subjective style she developed to study inner experience. This style controls most of the collected short stories in One Touch of Nature (1965), an anthology portraying temporary solutions to perpetual domestic conflicts. In Katie (1978), Chute creates a sexual comedy in the eloquent, whimsical style of her best work. Katie rebels against her mother's and sisters' doctrine of free love by chastely demanding a marriage proposal from every suitor until the acceptable bridegroom, like his devoted cat, unobtrusively joins her affectionate female ménage.

Chute has a genius for making believable characters perceive in poetry and speak in clever prose. She wrote her first stories in male disguise and returns frequently to the male protagonist, although her female characters are consistently brighter, more attractive, and more genuine than their lovers and husbands. Chute finds her fictional voice in the popular magazine but modulates it beautifully to describe comfortable people who win small victories for their better selves.

Other Works:

Camp Hero (1942). The Fields Are White (1950). The End of Loving (1953). The Blue Cup and Other Stories (1957). Journey to Christmas (1958). The Story of a Small Life (1972). The Good Woman (1986).


Chute, M., Minnesota Writers (1961). Coffin, R. W., ed., New York Theatre Critics Reviews (1960). Wylie, G. M., "B. J. Chute: Theory and Practice" (thesis, 1966).

Reference Works:

CA (1962). More Junior Authors (1963).

Other reference:

WLB (Sept. 1950). Marchette and B.J. Chute (videocassette, 1958).