Author Archives: Roger W. Smith

About Roger W. Smith

Roger W. Smith is a writer and independent scholar based in New York City. His experience includes freelance writing and editing, business writing, book reviewing, and the teaching of writing and literature as an adjunct professor at St. John’s University. Mr. Smith's interests include personal essays and opinion pieces; American and world literature; culture, especially books and reading; classical music; current issues that involve social, moral, and philosophical views; and experiences of daily living from a ground level perspective. Sites on WordPress hosted by Mr. Smith include: (1) rogersgleanings.com (a personal site comprised of essays on a wide range of topics) ; (2) rogers-rhetoric.com (covering principles and practices of writing); (3) roger-w-smiths-dreiser.site (devoted to the author Theodore Dreiser); and (4) pitirimsorokin.com (devoted to sociologist and social philosopher Pitirim A. Sorokin).

Franklin P. Adams and Heywood Broun on Dreiser

 

Franklin P. Adams wrote the column “The Conning Tower” in the New York Herald Tribune.

 

Adams

Herald Tribune, June 23, 1931

Franklin P. Adams (The Conning Tower) – NY Herald Tribune 6-23-1931

 

Herald Tribune, June 30. 1931

Franklin P. Adams (The Conning Tower) – NY Herald Tribune 6-30-1931

 

Heywood Broun

New York World-Telegram,

August 1, 1931

Heywood Broun, NY World-Telegram 8-1-1931

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

  November 2022

Dreiser, “Mankind’s Future Hangs on Russia”

 

Dreiser, ‘Mankind’s Future Hangs on Russia’ – The Progressive 11-31-1931

 

Posted here:

Theodore Dreiser

“Mankind’s Future Hangs on Russia”

The Progressive (Madison, Wisconsin)

November 21, 1931

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   November 2022

“The Man Who Knew Why Women Sinned” (Arun Mukherjee review of Theodore Dreiser : An American Journey: Volume II, 1908-1945)

 

Arun Mukerjee review of Lingeman bio, vol. 2 – Toronto Globe and Mail 11-17-1990

Arun Mukherjee review of Lingeman bio, vol. 2 – Toronto Globe and Mail 1-17-1990

 

Posted here is an excellent review by Arun Mukherjee, a professor at York University and author of The Gospel of Wealth in the American Novel: The Rhetoric of Dreiser and Some of His Contemporaries:

“The Man Who Knew Why Women Sinned”

review of Theodore Dreiser : An American Journey: Volume II, 1908-1945 by Richard Lingeman

reviewed by Arun Mukherjee

The Globe and Mail (Toronto, Canada)

November 17, 1990

 

 

– posted by Roger W. Smith

   November 2022

Alfred Kazin – Dreiser and Hopper

 

The nearest analogy to Dreiser’s “personal” realism is to be found in the painter Edward Hopper, who shares Dreiser’s passion for transcendentalist writers, for images of trains and roads. Despite his similar choice of “ordinary” subjects, Hopper has written that his aim “has always been the most exact transcription possible of my most intimate impressions of nature.” One critic has said that Hopper’s pictures–a silent city street early on a Sunday morning, a Victorian house by a railroad track, an usherette musing in the corridor of a movie theater–are astonishingly poignant “as if they were familiar scenes solemnly witnessed for the very last time.” One feels in the awkwardness, the dreaming stillness of Hopper’s figures the same struggle to express the ultimate confrontation of men and things that one does in Dreiser’s reverent description of saloons, street-cars, trains, hotels, offices. The beauty of such realism, which contrasts with the photographic exactness of a Charles Sheeler, is inevitably allied to a certain pathos. Just as in An American Tragedy one feels about Clyde Griffiths’s exultant discovery of hotel luxury the pitiful distance between the boy and the social world of tawdry prizes that he is trying to win, so in Hopper’s street scenes and lonely offices one can visualize the actual unrelatedness between men and the objects they use every day. It is one of the paradoxes of modem art that the more “external” and ordinary the object portrayed–a city street in Hopper, the complex record of a stock deal in Dreiser–the more personal is the emotion conveyed. The emotion consists in exactly this surprise of attachment to the world that so often dwarfs us. An American Tragedy begins unforgettably with a picture of a small missionary family in a big city, engulfed by the tall walls in its commercial heart; Sister Carrie is stupefied by the immensity of Chicago, and when she asks for work at Speigelheim and Company, is looked over by the foreman “as one would a package”; even Cowperwood, magnetic and powerful as he is, is surrounded by “the endless shift of things,” first in Philadelphia, then in Chicago. But it is the haunting feeling for things that the hero of The ‘Genius,’ a painter, conveys in his pictures of the Chicago River, the muddy industrial stream that significantly moves Witla to a “panegyric on its beauty and littleness, finding the former where few would have believed it to exist.” Later in New York, Eugene does a picture of Greeley Square in a drizzling rain, catching “the exact texture of seeping water on gray stones in the glare of various electric lights. He had caught the values of various kinds of lights, those in cabs, those in cable cars, those in shop windows, those in the street lamp–relieving by them the black shadows of the crowds and of the sky.” This might be a picture by Alfred Stieglitz. Despite the personal vulgarity and tinsel showiness in Dreiser’s style, his fundamental vision of things is always the artist’s.

— Alfred Kazin, General Introduction, The Titan, by Theodore Dreiser (The Laurel Dreiser; New York: Dell Publishing Co., Inc., 1959)

 

Note — The hero of Dreiser’s The “Genius,” Eugene Witla, was modeled on the Ashcan School painter, Everett Shinn. See Joseph J. Kwiat’s article, attached.

 

Joseph J. Kwiat, ‘Dreiser’s The Genius and Everett Shinn’

 

painting by Everett Shinn

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

  November 2022

“a sort of Theodore Dreiser”

 

“Traveling Man,” Time, January 19, 1948, pg. 61

 

On the walls of a Manhattan gallery last week hung some of the best paintings recently produced in the U.S. In the center of the room towered a high-domed, uncomfortable-looking gentleman, who questioningly pointed out first one of his pictures and then another to a small cluster of admirers. He heard their praises in silence, with an expression of kindly gloom. When the chatter died away, Edward Hopper’s paintings spoke for him, and spoke with concentrated force.

Manhattan’s classy, glassy Museum of Modern Art owns seven of his pictures, but except for his preoccupation with subject matter that is not conventionally beautiful, there was never anything “modern” about Hopper.

For Hopper, “nature” is largely man-made (the glare of electricity and the harsh jumble of U.S. cities and towns fascinates him) and it consists more of what he remembers than of what he sees. His big, cleanly painted canvases look like windows on simplified reality.

No Waiting. Rooms for Tourists was a literal portrait of a house in Provincetown near where he spends his summers. He had parked in front of the house evening after evening, making sketches by the dome light in his car. “Mrs. Hopper thought I should let the landlady know what I was doing out there,” he says, “but I didn’t want to intrude.”

Rooms for Tourists, like most of Hopper’s work, has the strange clarity of something seen once for an instant by a passing driver. It is a familiar vision without any of the dullness familiarity brings. The house looms sharply in the long darkness of the night, and the light shining from its windows is warm as bed. The impression, and the invitation, are instantaneous; the road leads on past.

A road cuts across the foreground of most of Hopper’s paintings. Sometimes it becomes a city street, or a railroad embankment, or a porch step, but it is there–a constant reminder of transience.

Born 65 years ago in Nyack, N.Y., Hopper has been following the painter’s road for nearly half a century. He was lucky enough to study with Robert Henri, whose “Ashcan School” of urban realism neatly fitted his own natural bent, and he later made three trips to Paris (where he imitated the impressionists but made no contact with young moderns like Picasso). For a long time Hopper’s road was a rocky one. He sold only two paintings in 23 years, supported himself by doing commercial illustrations, which he hated. Says Hopper: “I was a rotten illustrator–or mediocre, anyway.”

No Impulse. Hopper did not hit his stride until middle age, when sudden fame as an interpreter of the American scene–a sort of Theodore Dreiser in art–freed him. Nowadays, Hopper and his wife, who keeps her own painting studiously in the background, can afford a house on Cape Cod as well as their Manhattan studio apartment overlooking Washington Square.

“I wish I could paint more,” Hopper says. “I get sick of reading and going to the movies. I’d much rather be painting all the time, but I don’t have the impulse. Of course I do dozens of sketches for oils–just a few lines on yellow typewriter paper–and then I almost always burn them. If I do one that interests me, I go on and make a painting, but that happens only two or three times a year. . . .”

Hopper’s Summer Evening, a young couple talking in the harsh light of a cottage porch, is inescapably romantic, but Hopper was hurt by one critic’s suggestion that it would do for an illustration in “any woman’s magazine.” Hopper had the painting in the back of his head “for 20 years, and I never thought of putting the figures in until I actually started it last summer. Why, any art director would tear the picture apart. The figures were not what interested me; it was the light streaming down, and the night all around.

“. . . To me, the important thing is the sense of going on. You know how beautiful things are when you’re traveling.”

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

  November 2022

photos of Dreiser in Harlan County, 1931

 

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   October 2022

Esther McCoy, “The Life of Dreiser’s Last Party”

 

Esther McCoy, ‘The Life of Dreiser’s Last Party’ – Los Angeles Times 8-21-1977

Joseph Giovannini re Esther McCoy – NY Times 6-21-1984

 

Esther McCoy

“The Life of Dreiser’s Last Party”

The Los Angeles Times

August 21, 1977

 

– posted by Roger W. Smith

 October 2022

Esther McCoy, “The Death of Dreiser”

 

Esther McCoy, ‘The Death of Dreiser’ – Grand Street (2)

Esther McCoy on Dreiser – Daily Worker 1-14-1946 pg 11

 

Posted here (PDF above):

Esther McCoy

“The Death of Dreiser”

Grand Street 7 (Winter 1988): 73–85

A few explanatory notes:

Esther McCoy (1904-1989) became acquainted with Dreiser in the 1920s. After graduating from the University of Michigan, she moved to New York to pursue a career as a writer and was a researcher and editorial assistant to Dreiser, who was then living in Greenwich Village. She had a fling with Dreiser.

McCoy became prominent as an architectural historian and writer on architecture.

The “Berk” mentioned in McCoy’s article was Berkeley G. Tobey (1881-1962), to whom McCoy was married at the time of Dreiser’s death. Tobey had multiple spouses; he was married briefly to Dorothy Day.

McCoy mentions Dreiser’s “nephew.” This was Harald Dies. He was not Dreiser’s nephew. He had just completed service in the US Army. Harold was a cousin of Helen, who herself was a second cousin of Dreiser. Harold James Dies (1914-2012) became Trustee of the Dreiser Trust.

I have also posted  here (PDF above) an article of McCoy’s on Dreiser published in the Daily Worker of January 14, 1946.

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

  October 2022

 

Berkeley Tobey and Esther McCoy

Dreiser gravestones

 

 

 

Saint Boniface Cemetery, Chicago, Illinois

John Paul Dreiser
1821-1900

Sarah Dreiser
1833-1890

Paul Dresser
1858-1906*

 

*John Paul Dresser Jr. was born on April 22, 1858 in Terre Haute, Indiana. He was baptized on May 24, 1858 in St. Joseph Catholic Church, Terre Haute.

 

posted by Roger W. Smith

   October 2022

Carl Van Doren review of “Chains: Lesser Novels and Stories”

 

Carl Van Doren review of ‘Chains; Lesser Novels and Stories’ – NY Herald Tribune 5-22-1927

Carl Van Doren review of ‘Chains; Lesser Novels and Stories’ – NY Herald Tribune 5-22-1927

 

Posted here is a very interesting and provocative review of Dreiser’s Chains: Lesser Novels and Stories (New York: Boni & Liveright, 1927) by Carl Van Doren

New York Herald Tribune

May 22, 1927

 

— posted by Roger W Smith

  October 2022