Tag Archives: シオドア・ドライザー

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

 

 

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

 

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

Clifton Fadiman on ” Native Son” (and Dreiser)

 

 

Richard Wright’s Native Son is the most powerful American novel to appear since The Grapes of Wrath. It has numerous defects as a work of art, but it is only in retrospect that they emerge, so overwhelming is its central drive, so gripping its mounting intensity. No one, I think, except the most unconvertible Bourbons, the completely callous, or the mentally deficient, can read it without an enlarged and painful sense of what it means to be a Negro in the United States of America seventy-seven years after the Emancipation Proclamation. Native Son does for the Negro what Theodore Dreiser in An American Tragedy did a decade and a half ago for the bewildered, inarticulate American white. The two books are similar in theme, in technique, in their almost paralyzing effect on the reader, and in the large, brooding humanity, quite remote from special pleading, that informs them both.

 

 

— Clifton Fadiman, review of Native Son by Richard Wright, The New Yorker, March 2, 1940

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.

review of “An American Tragedy,” Sewanee Review

 

review of ‘An American Tragedy’ – Sewanee Review 1926

 

Posted here (above) as a downloadable PDF file is a review of Dreiser’s An American Tragedy that was published in The Sewanee Review.

The review is notable for how the writer so clearly apprehends Dreiser’s intentions and the strengths of the book, while not neglecting the fact that many found Dreiser’s prose and his narrative style to be ungainly, or, as the writer puts it, “unbeautiful.”

 

— Roger W. Smith

   September 2017

 

review of An American Tragedy, The Sewanee Review 34.4 (October-December 1926), p. 495-497

 

could Dreiser ever truly love anyone?

 

 

The answer is NO.

 

 

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

 

 

Roger W. Smith, email to Thomas P. Riggio, November 4, 2016

 

Dreiser (who was not a good husband and never became a parent) was incapable of really, truly loving another person in his adulthood and never did. (See Harry Stack Sullivan’s oft quoted definition of absolute love.) A corollary was that he could never freely accept love or kindness nor trust anyone’s good intentions towards him.

As Sullivan wrote: “When the satisfaction or the security of another person becomes as significant to one as one’s own satisfaction or security, then the state of love exists. Under no other circumstances is a state of love present, regardless of the popular usage of the term.” — Harry Stack Sullivan, Conceptions of Modern Psychiatry (1940)

Dreiser NEVER attained this.

 

 

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

 

Thomas P. Riggio, email to Roger W. Smith, November 4, 2016

 

The issue I thought we were discussing was Dreiser’s relationship with women. As to his ability to love another person, that’s another matter — one too complicated, for me at least, to make any judgments about.

It’s tough enough dealing with that topic in regard to people we know well in our own lives, never mind someone long dead whom we’ve never met. And then there are so many different criteria that people use to determine what it means to love. For instance, you mention only two, not being a husband and not having children, but that could be applied to Christ as well! Philandering husbands might still love their wives: Bill Clinton seems to “love” Hillary, for instance. As I said, it’s too complex for my simple mind to understand, so you may well be correct.

 

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

 

The issue is not too complex! Biographers and psychobiographers make such judgments all the time.

Dreiser scholars don’t want to go to deeply into his psyche because of what they might find.

The Dreiser archives are massive. He saved practically every letter, telegram, and scrap of paper that ever came into his hands. His love affairs and romantic entanglements have been well documented.

There is much, also, in Dreiser’s own autobiographical writings that reveals how he habitually dealt with other people, his family, relatives, and his spouses. What is notable is that he was constantly worried that someone would be unfaithful to him — or, in the case of non-intimate acquaintances, such as people he had business dealings with — that someone would cheat him. He had many acquaintances, but hardly any in the category of what you would call a best friend. He just plain could not trust or give himself to anyone. In the case of intimate relationships with women, he demanded that they pledge and observe absolute fidelity to him, but would not pledge it to them. See my essay

“Theodore Dreiser, Ervin Nyiregyházi, Helen Richardson, and Marie Pergain”

on this site at

https://dreiseronlinecom.wordpress.com/?s=pergain

for just one example — a very telling one –of how this played out in real life.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

   September 2017

“Dreiser Today” (1941)

 

 

David Lord, ‘Dreiser Today’ – Prairie Schooner 1941

 

 

Posted above as a downloadable PDF file is an important article on Dreiser that provides a comprehensive assessment of his critical reception in which his strengths and weaknesses as a writer are assessed from various standpoints and with reference to prominent critics with varying views:

David Lord, “Dreiser Today,” Prairie Schooner 15.4 (winter 1941): 230-239.

It is a well written and thoughtful assessment, in my opinion.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

   September 2017

 

Preface and Introduction, Theodore Dreiser, “Selected Poems (from Moods)”

 

 

Preface & Introduction, ‘Selected Poems from Moods,’ ed. Saalbach

 

 

Posted here (above) as a downloadable PDF document are the Preface and Introduction by Robert Palmer Saalbach to his edition of Theodore Dreiser’s poetry: Selected Poems (from Moods), with an introduction and notes by Robert Palmer Saalbach (New York: Exposition Press, 1969), pp. 5-23.

 

 

cover - 'Selected Poems from Moods'.jpg