Tag Archives: シオドー・ドライサー

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. Hopelessly out of his depth. 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.

Dreiser could have said just the opposite; it would have made as much (little) sense and had the same import.

 

— 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

Ayn Rand on Dreiser (some thoughts)

 

In her essay “Her Better Judgment: Ayn Rand, Theodore Dreiser, and the Shape of the American Novel, Part 1”

https://www.atlassociety.org/post/her-better-judgment-ayn-rand-theodore-dreiser-and-the-shape-of-the-american-novel-part-1

Marilyn Moore writes:

We know that Rand was familiar with An American Tragedy. In her 1962 essay collection The Romantic Manifesto Rand singled out the novel as an example of a “bad novel” because the plot does not support the theme. The big ideas Dreiser aimed for couldn’t be supported by the story he told.

I am not an Ayn Rand fan. Have not read her books, don’t think I would want to.

But, I think Ms. Moore’s comment (and the views of Rand underlying it) are perceptive and well worth considering.

I may try myself at some point to write more about this. Keeping in mind that An American Tragedy is a work of fiction which, despite its defects, deeply impressed me as reader and which I still admire.

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

  May 2022

Ayn Rand and Dreiser

 

Dreiserians may be interested in the following articles by Marilyn Moore posted on the Atlas Society site:

Her Better Judgment: Ayn Rand, Theodore Dreiser, and the Shape of the American Novel, Part 1

https://www.atlassociety.org/post/her-better-judgment-ayn-rand-theodore-dreiser-and-the-shape-of-the-american-novel-part-1

At the end of Part 1, there is a link to Part 2 which does not work.

Her Better Judgment: Ayn Rand, Theodore Dreiser, and the Shape of the American Novel, Part 3

https://www.atlassociety.org/post/her-better-judgment-ayn-rand-theodore-dreiser-and-the-shape-of-the-american-novel-part-3

Her Better Judgment: Ayn Rand, Theodore Dreiser, and the Shape of the American Novel, Part 4

https://www.atlassociety.org/post/her-better-judgment-ayn-rand-theodore-dreiser-and-the-shape-of-the-american-novel-part-4

Her Better Judgment: Ayn Rand, Theodore Dreiser, and the Shape of the American Novel, Part 5

https://www.atlassociety.org/post/her-better-judgment-ayn-rand-theodore-dreiser-and-the-shape-of-the-american-novel-part-5

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

A. B. Magil, “Theodore Dreiser: The Old and the New,” Daily Worker

 

A. B. Magil, ‘Theodore Dreiser; The Old and the New’ – Daly Worker 8-28-1931

 

Posted here as a downloadable Word document:

Theodore Dreiser: The Old and the New

By A. B. Magil

Daily Worker

August 28, 1931

pg. 4

Abraham Bernard Magil (circa 1905 – January 2003; known as A. B. Magil) was a Marxist journalist and pamphleteer. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, where he obtained a degree in journalism, he joined the Communist Party and was employed by the Daily Worker.

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   May 2022

Robert Benchley. “Compiling an American Tragedy: Suggestions as to How Theodore Dreiser Might Write His Next Human Document and Save Five Years’ Work”

 

Robert Benchley, ‘Compiling An American Tragedy’ – Life 7-1-1926 (2)

 

Posted here as a PDF document:

Robert Benchley

Compiling an American Tragedy: Suggestions as to How Theodore Dreiser Might Write His Next Human Document and Save Five Years’ Work

Life

July 1, 1926


— posted by Roger W. Smith

   May 2022

David Karsner, “Dreiser, the Daddy of American Realists”

 

David Karsner, ‘Dreiser, the Daddy of American Realists’ – NY Herald Tribune 6-20-1926

David Karsner obit – NY Times 2-22-1941

 

Posted here (PDF files above):

David Karsner

“Dreiser, the Daddy of American Realists”

The New York Herald Tribune

June 20, 1926

Plus an Karsner’s obituary,

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

James T. Farrell, “Theodore Dreiser: In Memoriam”

 

James T. Farrell, ‘Theodore Dreiser; I Memoriam’ – Saturday Review 1-12-1946

 

Posted here (downloadable PDF file above)

James T. Farrell

“Theodore Dreiser: In Memoriam”

Saturday Review of Literature

January 12, 1946

pp. 16–17, 27–28

Dreiser deserved this tribute. And, Farrell had the generosity of spirit and critical acumen to write it.

 

— -posted by Roger W. Smith

 

A couple of books from my personal library

 

 

from Orrick Johns, “Time of Our Lives”

 

Orrick Johns, ‘Time of Our Lives’

 

Posted here is an excerpt from Orrick Johns, Time of Our Lives: The Story of My Father and Myself (New York: Stakcpole Sons, 1937).

Orrick Johns (1887-1946) was an American poet and playwright.

A native of St. Louis, Johns was the son of George Sibley Johns, editor of the St. Louis Post Dispatch. (In the 1890s, Dreiser was a reporter in St. Louis.) After graduating from the University of Missouri, Orrick Johns eventually landed a position at Reedy’s Mirror, a literary journal in St. Louis whose editor was William Marion Reedy. Reedy was an early champion of Dreiser when the latter’s critical reputation was far from secure. Reedy wrote a highly favorable review of The “Genius.

Johns moved to Greenwich Village in New York City around the time that Dreiser was writing The “Genius.” In 1912, Johns, a modernist free-verse poet, won The Lyric Year poetry contest for his poem “Second Avenue.” Competitors for the award included Edna St. Vincent Millay.

In the 1930s, Johns became a communist, briefly. He was supervisor of the WPA Writers’ Project in New York City. Johns’s Time of Our Lives: The Story of My Father and Myself was published in 1937.

The National Committee for the Defense of Political Prisoners was an organization founded in 1931 as an accompaniment to the International Labor Defense, led by the Communist Party USA. It was under the auspices of this organization that Dreiser, as de facto leader of the committee, became involved with the plight of striking miners in the Kentucky and Pennsylvania coal fields.

Dreiser’s involvement in the case of the imprisoned labor activist Tom Mooney is covered in my post

Roger W. Smith, “Theodore Dreiser in the US Communist Press”

 

San Francisco News, May 31, 1930

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

March 2022