Friday, November 14, 2014

Important update!

This blog is reopened!  Please stand by.  We are soon going to have some VERY insightful commentary on Jennie G. and women in history.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Had to Practice...

Things got changed around and I had to check back in. Your comments, of course, are most welcome. TE
Ummm... I note some activity on this blog. Rather glacial, really, but glad to see two recent posts. Watch for more because I have a trip to Indiana planned and I'm going to give a first person account of a city that was very important to Mr. Dreiser.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Back at it...

Hello all. It was a struggle to get back to my blog. Not just for "creative" reasons but because the blogmaster has changed access and told me that the whole blog experience was "upgraded" with all sorts of new and improved things. But, of course, I couldn't remember by user name or password so, well, you know, just the old run-around.

At any rate, this is just a short post because I can't stay too long. But I just wanted to say that one reason I haven't posted any entries is because I haven't read anything by Dreiser for a while. But that's changed and so it's time to get going again. See you tomorrow or the next day, watch for comments about the short stories... some good, some not so good...

Monday, March 27, 2006

Did you think I'd never return...?

Hello... Uh... What time is it...? Wow, I must've been asleep... Last thing I remember was discussing an opera about American Tragedy. And C'mas Eve. Was that last year? Couldn't be. Hey, I wonder if my second publication was ever mailed from "The International Dreiser Society." Oh... no, never got that; well, I'm sure they're working on it. I wonder if they ever updated that one web-site entry from 2003...?

Anybody out there...?

Since my last posting I have read quite a few of D's works: Hoosier Holiday, Jenny Gerhardt, Genius. Here's a joke I used at work. Let's say someone walked by while I was reading at lunch. He/she might ask: Tom, what're you reading? I'd say, I'm reading your biography (and I'd show them the title: "Genius".) They'd laugh. Then I'd say: and this is only Volume I. Brought the house down.

Genius is brilliant. I don't think H.L Mencken liked it - I have to go back and re-read his comments; I didn't finish them because I didn't want Mencken to give away the ending - which is phenomenal. When Eugene and Suzanne pass each other after five years and pretend not to recognize each other, that misconnect and disconnect are riveting. I thought of the weirdness that characterizes events in "The Alexandria Quartet", where reality oftentimes seems up for grabs.

Gotta go. I'll be back. Love to hear from you!

Sunday, December 11, 2005

You Wanna Listen to What on C'mas Eve?

Hello Drieser Fans!

Sorry I haven't made any posts lately. I know it's difficult to navigate the early years of the 21st Century without seeking insight about a chronicler (Mr. Dreiser, not me) of the early years of the last century. I guess I could claim that I've just been too busy! That's a good excuse, plus you could infer that I have really important things to do. My blog adviser - one of the best in the business, and I mean that, this chap actually gets paid for writing a blog - tells me that one shouldn't let a blog get stale, that posts should be frequent. That's advice I try to follow.

So, a few things first: RE on Christmas eve... take note of a note that was sent to me a week or so ago. Don't want to listen to "Here Comes Santa Claus" or one more rendition of "Up on the Rooftop"? Well, try something happy - tune into the Metropolitan Opera's performance of the new opera - "An American Tragedy!"

The opera will be broadcast on the radio on Dec. 24 at 1:30 p.m. Check the Met's Web site to see if your local public radio station will be carrying it. If you live in the Cincinnati area, I'm told that WGUC will broadcast.

You know, I can't help but think about how Clyde ignored Roberta on Christmas eve. Was there ever a more heartbreaking telling of someone being stood up, abandoned? Roberta, completely alone, with a present for Clyde, waiting, hoping that what was happening wasn't really happening at the rich people's holiday soiree. Roberta peering into the dark night and winter, trying to avoid a crushing but inevitable sense of having been used. I don't have a copy of the novel and it's a good thing. I don't know if I want to be reimmersed in the pitiful sense of hope that fills Roberta with life - for a while. Remember, it's just a novel. But that's what makes D so great - you have to keep telling yourself that. CLYDE AND ROBERTA ARE JUST MADE UP! THEY DON'T REALLY EXIST!

Among family members who pretend to stay interested in my Dreiser commentary I have said that much of D's writing - particularly Tragedy - makes me think of a Mahler symphony. Kind of difficult, you know? A lot going on. Not too happy for a long time. But then suddenly some magical melody jumps out of a dark muddle of twisting gloomy tones; it can be a dance or a folk tune or birds whistling in the woods. And then the rest of the instruments catch up and pure bliss races along until, well, you know it's gonna happen - some tuba signals that the devil and all the mean people are back and poor melody gets slammed and trapped by fate and whatever else just makes people want to cry. Now that I think about it, D and Mahler were writing/composing at about the same time... Hmmm, I think there's a link; those fellas might have been IMing each other.

I finished The Titan. A great second part of the Cowperwood trilogy. The last 100 pages or so were brilliant. Characters, color, conversation, reporting, places, politics, commentary jump out of the text. I don't think it's all under control, though. The final events of the novel seem somewhat random, almost disconnected.

And - I hate to write it - but I think the final drama, as Frank tries to get the Chicago City Council to extend his transit franchise for 50 years, is dated. Think about it: Cowperwood is trying to take over the entire Chicago transit system. The image is good - the Titan will control how everyone moves around and through the city. That movement will influence commerce and industry and land values. From the top of a skyscraper, the people and machines move like ants through a controlled and predictable pattern, with wealth and power ascending to one person - Frank Cowperwood.

But most people today have never been on a bus - deliberately. A few cities have light rail and subways. Street cars? Come on, just urban gadgets for tourists - they don't carry power or the powerful. Frank's power is really last century. That's not D's fault. My comment is just that readers of today - especially young readers outside of Chicago or New York or San Francisco or Portland - might find it hard to accept that the guy who owns the bus sytem could be the equivalent of George Soros or Bill Gates. Anyway, who owns bus or rail systems? They're public entities (to a certain extent because of people like F.Cowperwood). Now, if you live in New York City and you're wondering about getting around in case the transit workers do strike... Well, there are always exceptions.

Frank's work to rebuild the tunnels under the Chicago River is very 21st century - more on that latah!

Remember, if you want a notice when this this blog has new material, send your e-mail to I'll keep all addresses confidential. But if the agent of a certain someone offers me 20Gs for the e-mail string... well, we all gotta get by...

Thursday, December 01, 2005

"Don't Want Nobody Nobody Sent..."

Are you from Chicago? Are you familiar with some of Chicago's more sullied and storied events; I'm thinking, you know, like its political history? Well, maybe you know the phrase "Don't want nobody nobody sent."

The phrase references the surprise appearance of official investigators looking into shenanigans involving money and votes and access and open public processes and who gets to be in charge and why. Come to think about it, that's hardly a historical reference for Windy City politics. It's kinda timely today.

Anyway, an up-and-coming news sleuth filled me in on that phrase and it's certainly something our man Frank might be worrying about. I'm at the point in The Titan in which the Republicans just won City Hall, a significant purge of the long and profitably entrenched Dems. This purge was financed by one Hosmer Hand along with some other wealthy colleagues, with on-the-ground tactics carried out by very colorful hirelings who always have one grudge or another against any power structure.

The real goal of Mr. Hand's upheaval, interestingly, is not political power. Rather, it's revenge at you-know-who. That's right: Frank Cowperwood. And you probably know why - because Frank stole the affection of the young Mrs. Hosmer Hand, turning the elderly husband into a vengeful cuckold. Actually, this same call for retribution comes from many in Chicago. Frank moves through social circles like a tomcat.

But, now, Aileen has met Polk Lynde and there are sparks within a dangerously charged atmosphere. More on this latah...

How about that name "Hosmer Hand?" Is that great or what? What about "Polk Lynde?"

No author is better than Dreiser at creating, describing, presenting and commenting on his characters, usually presenting all of those descriptives in the same sentence, or remarkably few sentences. Consider how he expands on Polk Lynde's personality: "He (Polk) was comparatively young - not more than Aileen's own age - schooled, if not educated, at one of the best American colleges, of excellent taste in the matter of clothes, friends, and the details of living with which he chose to surround himself, but at heart a rake." Schooled, if not educated - ever meet anyone like that?

Polk's father is a wealthy farm implement manufacturer. Polk is the gilded heir; money is just to fight off boredom. Consider how Drieser sets Polk's relationship with hard work, risk, capital, labor, showing up for work everyday, i.e., reality: "He (Polk) realized that the business itself was a splendid thing. He liked on occasion to think of it with all its extent of ground-space, plain red-brick buildings, tall stacks and yelling whistles; but he liked in no way to have anything to do with the rather commonplace routine of its manipulation." A contemptuous, pompous and arrogant rake - I would say finely crafted by Mr. Dreiser.

I'm getting long-winded, so I just have to pose a rhetorical question now. As accomplished as Dreiser is at descriptions, characterization, historical recounting, psychological insight and commentary... I'm wondering after 327 pages, will the sum of The Titan be greater than its great parts?

Oh - now I'm really carrying on, but I checked the ticket prices for "Tragedy" in New York. Some sections are sold out - I think for the opening night.

Keep in touch.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Breaking news from New York...

This just in: AP is reporting details still aren't settled for the ending of the opera "An American Tragedy." Show opens New York, Dec. 2. I won't be there. If any readers attend, we would appreciate a full report. (Send e-mail to to discu$$ payment.) For more info, go to:

The write-up sent to me tells that the opera's composer's father - got that? - really liked "A Place in the Sun", the 1951 film starring Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift, a movie that is supposed to be based on "An American Tragedy." In my mind, that comparison is similar to a saw-horse and a Kentucky thoroughbred.

I can't recall M. Clift's movie name - I think it was George, not Clyde (the name of the character in the novel). But here's the basic difference: the movie was about Mr. Clift (or George), a personality, a singular presence in the movie's world. But the novel is not singularly about Clyde. Yes, we're tightly linked to Clyde's tragic youth and young adulthood (that's all he gets...). But in a larger sense, Clyde is just a strike-plate, just the dynamic, the engine, if you will that opens up and exposes and pulls us into a much larger world - the world as it existed in the early 20th Century.

Also, keep in mind that a tragedy, in literature, exacts widespread ramifications. To set things right, payback is extensive. Think back to high school English when you had to pretend you were interested in all those words in MacBeth but what you really liked was the witches and stuff like that.

A real tragedy means the columns and pillars of the royal house come tumbling down, with lightening and earthquakes wreaking havoc throughout the kingdom. There's trouble in Denmark, not just with a couple of kids. The movie did not develop nor portray the fundamental systemic, societal misalignments in which Clyde and Roberta are trapped. In the movie, the upper class twits became George's friends. In the novel, they were at best neutral, at worst actually hostile. That distinction is critical. At the end of the novel, the cataclysm of Clyde's decisions and actions reverberate from Albany to Rochester, from Boston to Denver. Hopefully the opera will impose this broad scope. Without such themes and precepts and concepts, it won't be Wagnerian, it'll be "Days of Our Lives." But, on with the show! Maybe the music will be good.

Thanks to one of the AP's best new reporters for sending me the info about the opera. I had seen reference to it a while ago in a Terra Haute, IN, newspaper. But I had forgotten about it and I was very glad to get the update. Also, this reporter sent a very nice note. (Plus, I happen to know she's very pretty.)

I'm still reading The Titan. This post was going to comment on that novel, which I'm enjoying. To be honest, I'm not sure why Dreiser has Frank pursuing so many women for so many pages. It's done masterfully, but it seems overdone. What's the point? OK, so Frank is a moral ingrate, a self-centered egotistical rationalizing womanizer. So far, though, I'm left confused by the deep and swirling descriptions that Dreiser affixes to this behavior.

Maybe a light bulb will go on as I continue...

Now here's a tragedy - I have to go back to work on Monday (just kidding, boss)! I took off all of Thanksgiving week. Very pleasant.

Remember, if you want to get an e-mail notice about posts on this blog, please send your e-mail address to I promise I'll keep it confidential; I won't even give it to John J. McKenty as he sits in his rocking chair keeping track of votes on Chicago's City Council...