George Orwell on “An American Tragedy”

 

 

… intellectual refinement can be a disadvantage to a story-teller, as it would be to a music-hall comedian.

Take, for example, Ernest Raymond’s We, the Accused — a peculiarly sordid and convincing murder story, probably based on the Crippen case. I think it gains a great deal from the fact that the author only partly grasps the pathetic vulgarity of the people he is writing about, and therefore does not despise them. Perhaps it even — like Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy -– gains something from the clumsy long-winded manner in which it is written; detail is piled on detail, with almost no attempt at selection, and in the process an effect of terrible, grinding cruelty is slowly built up.

— George Orwell “Good Bad Books,” Tribune, November 2 1945 (republished in Shooting an Elephant and Other Essays, 1950).

 

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I concur with Orwell.

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   February 2021

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