Category Archives: miscellaneous

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

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

Сергей Динамов, “Теодор Драйзер и революция” (Sergei Dinamov, Theodore Dreiser and Revolution)

 

FINAL, RUSSIAN Dinamov – Preface to A Gallery of Women

FINAL, ENGLISH Dinamov – Peface to A Gallery of Women

 

Posted here as Word documents are the original Russian article:

Теодор Драйзер и революция

Предисловие к Теодору Драйзеру: Собрание сочинений, том 8

Москва; Ленинград, 1933 г.

and an English translation by Roger W. Smith:

Theodore Dreiser and Revolution

Preface to Theodore Dreiser: Collected Works, Volume 8

By Sergei Dinamov

Moscow; Leningrad, 1933

Sergei Dinamov was a Russian critic.

See also a copy of the original article below.

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

September 2022

 

Dinamov, ‘Theodore Dreiser and Revolution’ ORIGINAL

a Dreiser parody

 

Ted Robinson, Jack and Jill parody – Ithaca Journal-News 4-25-1921 pg 4

 

This parody of Dreiser by Ted Robinson appeared in the Cleveland Plain Dealer (date unknown) and was reprinted in the Ithaca Journal-News of April 25, 1921.  It was one of several parodies of Jack and Jill as told by various writers.

— posted by Roger W. Smith

  September 2022

an early notice of Dreiser

 

‘The Literary Outlook (2)- Los Angeles Tiimes 8-12-1898

‘The Literary Outlook’ – Los Angeles Times 8-12-1898

 

Posted here, an early, interesting notice of Dreiser:

“The Literary Outlook”

by E. C. Martin

The Los Angeles Times, August 12, 1898, pg. 7

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   September 2022

Harry Rosecrans Burke, Dreiser in St. Louis

 

‘Dreiser and the Riddle of the Sphinx’

 

Posted here (PDF file above):

“Dreiser and the Riddle of the Sphinx”

From the Day’s Journey: A Book of By-Paths and Eddies About St. Louis

By Harry Rosecrans Burke

Saint Louis: The W. H. Miner Co., Inc., 1924

pp. 165-171

 

In this chapter, there is a rare recounting of Dreiser during his days as a reporter in St. Louis.

Dreiser lived in St. Louis from 1892 to 1894, during which time he was employed as a reporter for the St. Louis Globe-Democrat and the St. Louis Republic.

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   August 2022

“Memories of Dreiser” (Vera Dreiser’s)

 

Paul Vandervoort, ‘Memories of Dreiser’ – Indianapolis Star 10-2-1976

 

Posted here (PDF above):

“Memories of Dreiser”

By Paul Vandervoort

The Indianapolis Star

October 2, 1976

The article focuses on recollections of Dreiser’s niece Vera Dreiser, who had just published a book on Dreiser, My Uncle Theodore.

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

  July 2022

a faux philosopher

 

I have no theories about life, or the solution of economic and political problems. Life, as I see it, is an organized process about which we can do nothing in the final analysis. Of course, science, art, commercial progress, all go to alleviate and improve and ease the material existence of humanity, and that for the great mass, is something. But there is no plan, as I believe, from Christianity down, that can be more than a theory. And dealing with man is a practical thing—not a theoretical one. Nothing can alter his emotions, his primitive and animal reactions to life. Greed, selfishness, vanity, hate, passion, love, are all inherent in the least of us, and until such are eradicated, there can be no Utopia. Each new generation, new century brings new customs, new ideas, new theories, but misery, weakness, incapacities, poverty, side by side with happiness, strength, power, wealth, always have, and no doubt, always will exist. And until that intelligence which runs this show sees fit to remould the nature of man, I think it always will be the survival of the fittest, whether in the monarchies of England, the democracies of America, or the Soviets of Russia.

— Dreiser to Sergei Dinamov, Letters of Theodore Dreiser: A Selection, Volume Two, edited by Robert H. Elias (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1959), pg. 449-450

 

This is “vintage” Dreiser qua philosopher. This is “vintage” Dreiser qua philosopher. Prolix, “muddy,” pompous, pseudo profound.

But at least expressing core beliefs that made him a bona fide naturalist. Grounded in Herbert Spencer’s (a great influence on Dreiser) adapting and popularizing of Darwin. “Survival of the fittest” was Spencer’s term..

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   July 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.”

 

*****************************************************

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