Sunday, July 01, 2007

back page: an american tragedy

an american tragedy by theodore dreiser

let me quote you from my edition's afterword: "the action of the novel moves like a series of waves, each surging forward to a peak of tension and receding into quietness, and each, after the first one, reenacting in a more complex and perilous fashion the material of its predecessor."

i heartily agree, but while iriving howe suggests that the gathering storm of dreiser's prose is something to be admired, i think i'd rather stay ashore. an american tragedy pounds the reader with wave after wave of its protagonists indiscretions. eight hundred fourteen pages of boring breakers. can someone please call an editor? dreiser's relentless descriptions of the blindly selfish age in which he lived make one tired. for those that survive the deluge, the novel concludes with an interesting collision between faith and conscience. ultimately, i'd say this is the kind of book that inane teachers will assign to their unfortunate students, forever spoiling the next generation's opportunity to appreciate great literature.

6 out of 17

andrew david. "dreiser won't save you, grab the rope!" crescent bar, wa.