Category Archives: reviews of Dreiser works

“Dreiser is a great novelist, narrator and portraitist of capitalist America, a great interpreter of”human nature, … but he does not know women.” (Ruth Kennell on “A Gallery of Women”)

 

Ruth Kennell review of A Gallery of Women – Chicago Daily News 12-11-1929

Ruth Kennell review of A Gallery of Women RUSSIAN

Ruth Kennell review of A Gallery of Women TRANSLATION

 

Posted here (downloadable Word documents above) are my transcriptions and translations of the following:

review of A Gallery of Women (published anonymously) by Ruth Kennell, Chicago Daily News. December 11, 1929

РУТ КЕННЕЛЬ, «ГАЛЛЕРЕЯ ЖЕНЩИН» ТЕОДОРА ДРАЙЗЕРА, в Собрании сочинений Теодора Драйзера, Москва, 1938 (Ruth Kennell, “A Gallery of Women” by Theodore Dreiser, in The Collected Works of Theodore Dreiser, Moscow, 1938) — posted here are both the original Russian and my English translation.

Ruth Kennell was the “Ernita” of A Gallery of Women. She does not disclose this in either article.

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

   December 2021

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

a review of “This Madness”

 

 

review of This Madness – Muskogee (Oklahoma) Democrat 2-5-1929

 

“This Madness” — a series of three sketches (” Aglaia,” “Elizabeth,” “Sidonie”) was a novella by Dreiser published in six installments in Hearst’s International-Cosmopolitan from February to July 1929. The first installment had the subheading “An Honest Novel about Love by the Man Who Wrote ‘An American Tragedy’ .”

The serialized novella “This Madness” was heavily advertised, but it received hardly any reviews. It was not, apparently, deemed worthy of critical attention.

This review appeared in the Muskogee (Oklahoma) Democrat of February 5, 1929.

 

See also my post

Theodore Dreiser, “This Madness”

on this site at

Theodore Dreiser, “This Madness”

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

Edmund Wilson review of Tragic America

 

 

Edmund Wilson review of Tragic America – New Republic 5-30-1932

 

Posted here is Edmund Wilson’s review of Dreiser’s Tragic America in The New Republic of May 30, 1932.

It gets at — very effectively — the question of flagrant infelicities and weakness in Dreiser’s writing versus the strengths of same. And it perceptively examines how Dreiser’s thought and political views were evolving at the time and becoming more aligned with Communism.

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   July 2021

a penetrating review of “The Titan”

 

 

Binder1

 

 

Mr. Dreiser’s Trilogy: “The Financier” Continued In “The Titan” — …

By Hildegarde Hawthorne

The New York Times Review of Books

May 24, 1914

 

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Hildegarde (Hawthorne) Oskison (1871-1952) was a writer of supernatural and ghost stories, a poet, and biographer.

She was the eldest child of Julian Hawthorne, the son of Nathaniel Hawthorne, and a granddaughter of Nathaniel Hawthorne.

 

– posted by Roger W. Smith

    April 2021

Isabel Paterson review of “Dawn” (New York Herald Tribune)

 

 

Isabel Paterson review of Dawn – NY Herald Tribune 5-8-1931

 

 

Posted here (PDF file above) is a review of Theodore Dreiser’s Dawn

reviewed by Isabel Paterson

New York Herald Tribune

May 8, 1931

pg. 21

 

 

This brief review — mostly unfavorable in its view of the book and of Dreiser qua writer — is incisive, in my opinion.

I have long felt that Dawn is a sloppily written and inferior work; and that it is far beneath Dreiser’s A Book About Myself (later published as Newspaper Days) by any measure of literary merit. Nevertheless, Dawn does have interest as an autobiographical source.

 

— Roger W. Smith

  February 2020

 

 

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Isabel Paterson (1886-1961; née Isabel Mary Bowler) was a Canadian-American journalist, novelist, political philosopher, and a leading literary and cultural critic of her day. Paterson has been called one of the three founding mothers of American libertarianism, along with Rose Wilder Lane and Ayn Rand, both of whom acknowledged an intellectual debt to her. She began her journalism career as an assistant to Burton Rascoe (who knew Dreiser personally), the literary editor of the New York Tribune (later the New York Herald Tribune). From 1924 to 1949, she wrote a column for the Herald Tribune‘s “Books” section.

 

— Wikipedia

Edwin Seaver, “Theodore Dreiser and the American Novel,” New Masses, 1926

 

 

Edwin Seaver, review of An American Tragedy – New Masses, May 1926

 

 

 

Posted here (PDF file above) is the following review of Dreiser’s An American Tragedy. It was published in the inaugural issue of New Masses, a Marxist publication:

 

“Theodore Dreiser and the American Novel,” by Edwin Seaver, New Masses, vol. 1, no 1 (May 1926), pg. 24

 
The review is cited in the standard Dreiser bibliography by Pizer, Dowell, and Rusch, but it does not seem to have been reprinted. It is not included in Jack Salzman’s Theodore Dreiser: The Critical Reception.

Seaver, who frequently wrote for New Masses, had leftist views. One might say that he approved of An American Tragedy because of its realistic portrayal of American life as opposed to a tendency of novelists who, Seaver felt, wallowed in self-expression.

 
— posted by Roger W. Smith
   December 2019

“adolescent pachyderm”

 

 

review of Dawn (Dreiser called pachyderm) – Time 5-18-1931

 

 

The review of Theodore Dreiser’s Dawn posted here (as a Word document) is from the May 18, 1931 edition of Time.

It is written in the typically snippy (and often parodied) Time style. Nevertheless, it provides a look at the way Dreiser was regarded in his day.

 

 

–Roger W. Smith

  May 2018

Burton Rascoe on Dreiser (Dreiser as autobiographer)

 

 

I have always felt that Theodore Dreiser’s A Book About Myself (1922) is not only clearly superior to his other autobiographical work, Dawn (1931), but that the former work is underrated and has been neglected (which it should not be) when it comes to the question of ascertaining what American autobiographies are most deserving of being regarded as classics.

A Book About Myself was republished by Horace Liveright in 1931 under Dreiser’s original title, Newspaper Days. In 1991, the University of Pennsylvania Press published an unexpurgated edition edited by T. D. Nostwich which restored passages considered too explicit for publication when the book was first published. This unbowdlerizing increased the size of length of the work considerably.

The following is an excerpt from a review of the original work in the New York Tribune by Burton Rascoe. The entire review is posted here as a downloadable PDF document. It is a stimulating, lively review which shows a fundamental understanding and appreciation of Dreiser. Arthur Burton Rascoe (1892-1957) was a literary critic for the Tribune. He knew Dreiser personally and was the author of a book about him.

It must be a cause for pain and chagrin to Mr. Dreiser’s detractors as a novelist, who urge against him the single score of immortality, to read this book. On the face of it this self-revelation is frank and sincere. Mr. Dreiser has the conspicuous virtue of all great confessors: he does not hide the truth even when it makes him look ridiculous. For certainly he is in turn pathetic and lovable, sublime and ludicrous. He is, like the George Moore of “Hail and Farewell,” much and often a booby; he is, like the St. Augustine of “The Confessions,” much and often a noddle; he is, like Rousseau, much and often an ass; he is, like Casanova, much and often a vain and comical boaster; he is, like Bunyan and Dickens, in frequent bad taste; but he is forever and always frank, honest, and sincere.

 

 

Burton Rascoe review of ‘A Book About Myself’ – NY Herald Trib 12-31-1922

 

 

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I agree with Rascoe’s assessment. One of the chief things to admire about the book and Dreiser as revealed therein, by Dreiser himself, is Dreiser’s candor. He was never afraid to portray himself both as a budding journalist and idealistic young man to be esteemed, when appropriate; and also as someone often inept and jejune who could be found to have acted rashly and behaved foolishly and to have failed to acquit himself well on many occasions, besides giving heed to both “good” and “bad” impulses.

The book is, above all (as Rascoe notes), an honest and therefore authentic coming of age story. And, a compelling one. It should have more readers, but rarely — in fact, hardly ever — does it get noticed or mentioned as a prime example of American autobiography. It seems to have few readers nowadays.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

   October 2017

rhymed review, “The Financier”

 

 

‘Rhymed Review, The Financier’ – Life 2-13-1913

 

 

Theodore Dreiser’s novel The Financier was published in 1912. (A later, revised and shortened edition was published in 1925.)

This rhymed review of The Financier, by Arthur Guiterman, appeared in the February 13, 1913 issue of Life.