Saturday, August 27, 2011

Theodore Dreiser

She looked into her glass and saw a prettier Carrie than she had seen before; she looked into her mind, a mirror prepared of her own and the world’s opinions, and saw a worse.  Between these two images she wavered, hesitating which to believe.
From his novel about turn-of-the-century urban life, Sister Carrie (1900).

Theodore Dreiser was a great novelist but a fairly mediocre stylist -- his novels are all substance and no style.  

Sister Carrie is the story of a beautiful and innocent country girl who goes to the big city (Chicago) to live with her older sister.  Thanks to her beauty, she quickly loses her innocence.  

After becoming a traveling salesman's "kept woman," she then has an affair with a married man.  The couple move to New York City, where the book takes an interesting turn.  Her lover's fortunes wane, while hers wax -- his business fails and he becomes a homeless beggar after she leaves him, while she ends up as a star on Broadway.  But do fame and fortune bring her true happiness?  What do you think?  

One perceptive reviewer praised Sister Carrie because it was “absolutely free from the slightest trace of sentimentality or pettiness, and dominated everywhere by a serious and strenuous desire for truth.”  Some readers were offended by the book because it portrayed characters engaging in illicit sexual relationships without negative consequences.  Others simply found it bleak and depressing.   (Oprah would have hated it, I think.)

Dreiser was born on this date in 1871.

Theodore Dreiser

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