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.
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