Tag Archives: Theodore Dreiser preface to The Truth about Reader’s Digest by Sender Garlin

“The Truth about Reader’s Digest”

 

Dreiser preface

 

‘The Truth About Reader’s Digest

 

Posted here is Dreiser’s preface to:

The Truth about Reader’s Digest

by Sender Garlin

illustrations by William Gropper

fourth printing

New York: Forum Publishers, May 1943

as well as the entire book.

 

Dreiser’s preface was a letter to Sender Garlin, dated April 28, 1943.

Sender Garlin (1902-1999) was on the staff of the Daily Worker from the late 1920s through 1943.

Reader’s Digest was founded in 1922 by DeWitt Wallace with his wife Lila Bell Wallace. It soon became one of the most widely circulated periodicals in the world.

Wallace was a supporter of the Republican Party with strong anti-communist views, and the magazine reflected these beliefs. The magazine maintained a consistently conservative and anti-communist perspective on political and social issues.

 

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an editorial comment:

Dreiser states that “I did not look at any of its material other than that relating to Science, but subsequent to that, and since there are ample sources of scientific data, I dropped it.” He was actively involved at the time in intensive study of scientific phenomena (futile and ultimately worthless) described in Louis J. Zanine‘s Mechanism and Mysticism: The Influence of Science on the Thought and Work of Theodore Dreiser.

Dreiser obviously dashed off the letter. It reflects his social and political views. But it is maddingly imprecise, like so much of Dreiser’s expository writing. Woolly is a good word for what I mean. Also verbose:

… from reading your, booklet, I gather the publication’s true attitude and import. It is all so fascinatingly sly, and to my way of thinking, criminal-since plainly it labors to belittle our chief and most valuable ally, and to forward the desires of the capitalistic group in this country that seeks-and has sought from the very beginning-to establish money-plenty and money-author­ity for the few as opposed to poverty and slavery for the masses here as elsewhere on earth. How I despise their mentally stupid and wholly material standards, particularly since this in the day when the need for scarcity for any is gone and plenty for all is here. The pity of it is that they are mentally—so thick-putting matter—show, clothes, houses—all material junk, before mind—the mind of a Shelley, for instance, or a Poe or Spencer or a Jefferson or Lincoln.

But, alas, it has to be fought out and will be. The children of the world will not always starve on five cent school lunches while the money-dunces gorge and show off from day to day and year to year.

Dreiser writing without an editor close at hand is akin to a vehicle out of control being in danger of crashing.

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   November 2021