Category Archives: reviews of Dreiser works

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

John Cowper Powys review of “An American Tragedy”

 

John Cowper Powys review of An American Tragedy – The Dial, April 1926

 

Posted here (downloadable PDF above) is a review by John Cowper Powys of Dreiser’s An American Tragedy.

The Dial, April 1926

An editorial comment: Dreiser’s friend Powys certainly enjoyed showing off his vocabulary.

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   March 2022

review of Dreiser, “Free and Other Stories,” The Dial (1918)

 

review of ‘Free and Other Stories’ – The Dial 12-28-1918

 

Posted here (downloadable PDF file above) is a review of Dreiser’s Free and Other Stories

The Dial, December 28, 1918

The review makes reference to Dreiser’s novel The “Genius,” which it terms a “ponderous commentary on Weininger’s Sex and Character.” Otto Weininger (1880-1903) was an Austrian philosopher and author of the  book Geschlecht und Charakter (Sex and Character). The influence of Weininger on Dreiser in The “Genius” is analyzed in Donald Pizer’s article “Otto Weininger and the Sexual Dynamics of Theodore Dreiser’s The “Genius,” Studies in American Naturalism 3.2 (winter 2008).

An editorial comment: The “Genius,” which is closely based on events in Dreiser’s life, is an uneven book that can be criticized for its muddled views. It did not get a good critical reception, and it is still not well regarded. I found the novel highly readable despite the weak patches and feel it is underrated.

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   March 2022

Isabel Paterson on Dreiser

 

Isabel Paterson (1886-1961) was a Canadian-American journalist, novelist, political philosopher, and literary and cultural critic. In 1921, Paterson became an assistant to Burton Rascoe, 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. Burton Rascoe (1892-1957) was an editor and literary critic of the New York Herald Tribune. He was an early champion of Dreiser and the author of Theodore Dreiser (1925), in which he defended Dreiser and his work against the charges of hostile critics.

 

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Isabel Paterson, review of An American Tragedy, McNaught’s Monthly, February 1926

It takes twenty years of laborious effort to write as badly as Mr. Dreiser does. He is the most unaccountable phenomenon in all of literature—a man invincibly ignorant of the first principles of his art, yet impressing upon his time by the sheer honesty of his mind and his vast industry His vision is limited and earth-bound; apparently he knows little of either joy or nobility of mind as factors in conduct—though certainly he has devoted his own life to an ideal: the truth as he sees it. He is possessed by a terrible sincerity and a sad, compassionate insight into the futilities and weaknesses of human nature.

Isabel Paterson re An American Tragedy – McNaught’s Monthly, Feb 1926

 

Isabel Paterson, “Reading with Tears” (includes comments on An American Tragedy), The Bookman, October 1926

Isabel Paterson re An American Tragedy – The Bookman, October 1926

 

Isabel Paterson, comments on A Gallery of Women, New York Herald Tribune, March 9, 1928

The mystery of Theodore Dreiser deepens from year to year. He is so important simply as a writer, that the publication of a story by Dreiser is news. And yet, as a writer, he is so perfectly terrible—no correct critical rebuke would be appropriate—that he is incredible, almost fabulous. … Dreiser’s sentences can’t be smoothed over, or tinkered up. They can’t even be rewritten. Nothing can be done about them. …

Is it not strange, bewildering, almost stupefying? Now how, in the name of the Nine Muses, does Dreiser, with such ideas and such, oh, SUCH a style, compel one to read and remember, even more, to afflictedly await whatever he writes, and pursue it and insist on having it? I don’t know. I could give a lot of explanations, in which the words candor and titanic and laborious and brooding and sincerity and pity and terror and katharsis would figure prominently. … But it would all boil down to one quite inexplicable word, genius. Only a genius could write as atrociously as that in the first place to say nothing of forcing the public to gulp it down afterward—yes, and to ask for more.

Isabel Paterson re A Gallery of Women – NY Herald Tribune 3-9-1928

 

Isabel Paterson, review of Dreiser Looks at Russia, New York Herald Tribune, November 13, 1928

Dreiser’s prose style is really—at last I see where he got it!—it is a verbal pattern corresponding to modes of domestic architectural ornament and furniture which prevailed in the ‘80s and ‘90s, Dreiser’s impressionable years. .It is covered with jig-saw scroll-work, mansard gables and bull’s-eye windows, cupolas, iron stags, plush patent rockers with fringe about them, haircloth sofas, gilded rolling pins and golden oak bureaus putting black walnut over manels out of countenance.

Isabel Paterson re Dreiser Looks at Russia – NY Tribune 11-13-1928

 

Isabel Paterson, review of A Gallery of Women, New York Herald Tribune, November 29, 1929

Mr. Dreiser is a curiosity of literature, and he grows curiouser and curiouser. He cannot write a tolerable paragraph, a passable sentence. He hardly can write a word correctly. But he can write a novel. And he is at his best in portrait sketches, such as “Twelve Men” and “A Gallery of Women.”

Isabel Paterson review of A Gallery of Women – NY Herald Tribune 11-29-1929

 

Isabel Paterson, review of Dawn, New York Herald Tribune, May 8, 1931

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

 

Isabel Paterson, commentary re Dawn, New York Herald Tribune, May 18, 1931

Isabel Paterson re Dawn – NY Herald Tribune 5-18-1931

 

–posted by Roger W. Smith

  February 2022

“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

Ruth Kennell remarks re A Gallery of Women (Airmail Interview)

 

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

   July 2021

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