Monthly Archives: June 2022

a “wretched loser?”

 

The following is an excerpt from a new blog post:

The Sunny Side of American Life

Why our greatest writers found their inspiration in misery and failure

by David Mikics

Tablet

June 8, 2022

https://www.tabletmag.com/sections/arts-letters/articles/sunny-side-american-life

“When Dreiser first came to New York in 1894, in the midst of an economic crash, he was struck by the “hugeness and force and heartlessness of the great city.” New York was “gross and cruel,” he noted. Dreiser slept in flophouses, a wretched loser like Hurstwood in Sister Carrie, the scandalous first novel he published a few years later. Like Crane and Norris, Dreiser never lost the sense that life is ruthless.”

 

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This is misleading and in fact inaccurate.

Dreiser visited New York City and siblings living there in the summer of 1894. He returned to the City for good in late 1894 and had some difficulty getting newspaper work. But he got his footing rather quickly and was hired in the spring of 1895 as a magazine editor. His first editing job, for the magazine Ev’ry Month, lasted for about two years. He then had a brief but quite successful career as a freelance writer for magazines. Dreiser was married in December 1898 and seemed destined to live a comfortable middle class life.

Dreiser began writing Sister Carrie in the fall of 1899. He was not down or out or homeless. He and his wife were living in an Upper West Side apartment in Manhattan. Sister Carrie was published in 1900 by Doubleday, Page & Co. The events on which the novel is based occurred in the mid-1880s.

Dreiser then began a second novel, eventually published as Jennie Gerhardt. Troubled by financial worries and his inability to work on Jennie Gerhardt (he got stalled after a few chapters), Dreiser became depressed and began a period of restless wandering. He and his wife Jug (a nickname) gave up their Manhattan apartment and for the most part were living separately. This period of despair and impoverishment was recounted by Dreiser in his posthumously published account An Amateur Laborer.

This Hurstwood-like state came after Sister Carrie was written and published, and the misery and despair which Dreiser experienced then were short lived. In August 1904, Dreiser was hired by the publishing firm Street and Smith, and this led to several lucrative editorial posts in which he continued to work for several years before leaving voluntarily and returning to fiction.

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

June 2022

Ayn Rand on Dreiser (some thoughts)

 

In her essay “Her Better Judgment: Ayn Rand, Theodore Dreiser, and the Shape of the American Novel, Part 1”

https://www.atlassociety.org/post/her-better-judgment-ayn-rand-theodore-dreiser-and-the-shape-of-the-american-novel-part-1

Marilyn Moore writes:

We know that Rand was familiar with An American Tragedy. In her 1962 essay collection The Romantic Manifesto Rand singled out the novel as an example of a “bad novel” because the plot does not support the theme. The big ideas Dreiser aimed for couldn’t be supported by the story he told.

I am not an Ayn Rand fan. Have not read her books, don’t think I would want to.

But, I think Ms. Moore’s comment (and the views of Rand underlying it) are perceptive and well worth considering.

I may try myself at some point to write more about this. Keeping in mind that An American Tragedy is a work of fiction which, despite its defects, deeply impressed me as reader and which I still admire.

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

  May 2022

Ayn Rand and Dreiser

 

Dreiserians may be interested in the following articles by Marilyn Moore posted on the Atlas Society site:

Her Better Judgment: Ayn Rand, Theodore Dreiser, and the Shape of the American Novel, Part 1

https://www.atlassociety.org/post/her-better-judgment-ayn-rand-theodore-dreiser-and-the-shape-of-the-american-novel-part-1

At the end of Part 1, there is a link to Part 2 which does not work.

Her Better Judgment: Ayn Rand, Theodore Dreiser, and the Shape of the American Novel, Part 3

https://www.atlassociety.org/post/her-better-judgment-ayn-rand-theodore-dreiser-and-the-shape-of-the-american-novel-part-3

Her Better Judgment: Ayn Rand, Theodore Dreiser, and the Shape of the American Novel, Part 4

https://www.atlassociety.org/post/her-better-judgment-ayn-rand-theodore-dreiser-and-the-shape-of-the-american-novel-part-4

Her Better Judgment: Ayn Rand, Theodore Dreiser, and the Shape of the American Novel, Part 5

https://www.atlassociety.org/post/her-better-judgment-ayn-rand-theodore-dreiser-and-the-shape-of-the-american-novel-part-5

Ruth Kennell, “Драйзер О Советской России” (Dreiser on Soviet Russia)

 

Ruth Kennell review of Dreiser looks at Russia – RUSSIAN

Ruth Kennell review of Dreiser Looks at Russia TRANSLATION

 

Posted here. in the original Russian and in my English translation, is Ruth Kennell’s article Drayzer O Sovetskoy Rossii (Dreiser on Soviet Russia; a review of Dreiser’s Dreiser Looks at Russia), which was published in Russia in 1929.

Ruth Epperson Kennell (1893-1977), an American expatriate, became acquainted with Dreiser during the latter’s trip to the Soviet Union in 1927-1928. She served as secretary. translator, and guide for Dreiser and became Dreiser’s lover.

After Kennell’s return to America in 1928, she maintained an acquaintance with Dreiser, but the two were not intimate. Kennell was the author of Theodore Dreiser and the Soviet Union (1969).

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

    June 2022