review of Theodore Dreiser, “Dawn” – New Masses


John Herrmann review of Dawn – New Masses, September 1931


posted here:

review of Theodore Dreiser, Dawn

reviewed by John Herrmann

New Masses

September 1931

pg. 19


Note the mention of Heywood Broun. In a contemporaneous article, it was stated:

It’s really embarrassing. When one the great fixed stars of the bourgeois heavens suddenly forsakes its accustomed course and goes off on a tangent. what are the high-priests of bourgeois society to do:? They do what the world of exploiters and sycophants has always done: they declare that the star was never anything but a minor satellite of insignificant magnitude, that its efforts to attract attention are indeed pathetic, etc., etc. In other words, they do what the high-priests of the bourgeois literary world are now doing in the case of Theodore Dreiser. Led by the “socialist” buffoon, job racketeer, white chauvinist and dean of the Hotel Algonquin poker players, Heywood Broun, the literary medicine-men are desperately trying to exorcise the evil apparition of the new Theodore Dreiser—the Dreiser who denounces lynchers and coal operators and A. F. of L. betrayers—by the simple process of declaring that Dreiser, the great American novelist, does not and never did exist. Thus, in his latest diatribe against Dreiser, Broun writes: “Theodore Dreiser is an excellent novelist of the second class” (N. Y. World-Telegram. August 7, 1931). Broun is charitable—he concedes Dreiser second-class rating. It’s too bad that Dreiser isn’t content with this second-class rating that Broun has given him, but has indulged in a lot of “posturing and passion for publicity.” This about a man who most of his life worked in obscurity, suffering poverty and official persecution, who has shunned the bright lights of the fashionable literary and art world, who has almost a pathological aversion to appearing in public. That’s putting it on a little thick—especially when it comes from one of the cheapest publicity hounds that ever got his name into print.

That Bill Green, president of the A. F. of L., attacks Dreiser is only to be expected. Green is defending his class interests (the interests of the bourgeoisie) and his functional role as a strikebreaker and betrayer of the workers. But what of the literary gentry, those lofty souls who are always so keen about keeping politics out of ‘art”? Dreiser has committed the unpardonable sin; at an age when he should know better he has attacked the foundations of capitalist society, he has aligned himself with dangerous outlaw elements—“Reds,” Communists; he has raised his voice for the working class and against the capitalist class. And suddenly: his books are awful, he never could write, he’s only a ham, etc. The literary birds of prey (most of whom were only yesterday singing his praises) are busily pecking away.

— “Theodore Dreiser: The Old and the New,” By A. M. Magil, Daily Worker, August 28, 1931, pg. 4

Heywood Campbell Broun Jr. (1888-1939) was an American journalist and a member of the Algonquin Round Table. He worked as a sportswriter, newspaper columnist, and editor in New York City.


posted by Roger W. Smith

   November 2021

1 thought on “review of Theodore Dreiser, “Dawn” – New Masses

  1. bruyerecl0541

    Hello Roger! I cannot reply to each of your posts and I am amazed you can produce so many, even when feeling low. I can read yours easily now.

    I am a bit submerged by the number of documents I receive from different sources. I am on a list of Sinclair Lewis fans. Many of your posts interest me, though I am not as fascinated with Dreiser as you are. I liked this one, for instance, and the one by the Russian writer on American lit in the Soviet Union.There was also one that mentioned Sherwood Anderson. A new book of Short Stories by Anderson (24), new translations, each with a comment, is coming out here. I gave some advice and I am acknowledged.

    Warmly, Claire



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s