Thursday, October 13, 2005

Hello Theodore Dreiser Fans

Hello to everyone who enjoys - perhaps that's not the right word - Theodore Dreiser's novels and writings! "Enjoys" might be too superfluous. A better welcome might be to everyone who is "challenged" or "stimulated" or "enlightended" by Theodore Dreiser's novels (and enjoyment can certainly be a part of such responses).

Here's how I started reading Dreiser: a few years ago - at the turn of the century - many of you might have seen a Modern Library list of the top 100 English language novels of the 20th Century. Well, Drieser has two on that list - Sister Carrie and An American Tragedy.

I read Tragedy first and it bowled me over. Jeez. This guy knew how to pen a sentence or two. Then I read "My Life With Dreiser" by Mrs. Dreiser, who, of course, didn't become "Mrs." until the end of the book... Then I read The Financier and I thought it was better - in some ways - than Tragedy. What a remarkable historical novel. Everything's going fine for Frank Cowperwood in Philadelphia and then what knocks him off his perch? The great Chicago fire! I'm thinking: is this a parallel to Katrina or what?

It occurred to me that others might be avid Dreiser readers, folks who might like a place to comment on Ted's writings and ideas. So I thought I'd get this Blog started, an event made possible with the assistance of a professional blogger - my son, a status that is not a joke; he is actually paid for blogging, another story, of course, but important here because he set up this site.

So if you like Mr. Dreiser's novels and other writings, feel free to contribute ideas, thoughts, perspectives, analyses, whatever. See you soon.


Blogger Bookkat said...

Mr. Ewing,

I appreciate your comments regarding Mr. Dreiser and wish I could say I am also a fan. I'm just now getting to know Mr. Dreiser's works. I've just begun reading the Financier, and find the text to be as rich and filling as a chocolate malted on a sultry August afternoon. Therefore, I need to read it slowly, so that my literary sensitivities do not get sluggish and overwhelmed with his marvelous descriptors.

I promise to check back frequently, and offer up comments on this master's prose. Meanwhile, thank you for organizing this blog.

Kate McClain

8:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Thanks for the opportunity to express our appreciation and awe over this great american writer. my interests are more focused on the fact that this man was from my great state of Indiana. i hope to be able to read many other comments coming soon!!

thanks again!

9:41 PM  
Blogger Bookkat said...

Mr. Ewing,

I quite enjoyed your thoughts on action. I'll think about them some more and reply. In the meanwhile, I encourage you to continue your most excellent blogs.


7:10 PM  
Blogger manley said...

Hey Mr. Ewing,

This is my second posting to your blog site. I really like your site. You know what my favorite part is? You know when you sign in, there's that word verification thing, where you have to match the funny shaped letters and then type in those same letters in the little box to see if you know what those letters are? I've got it both times! I like doing that, it gives me some satisfaction and keeps my mind sharp.

Anyway, I tried to find one of those Dreiser books but haven't had any luck yet. We have one of those really big CVS pharmacies near our house so I went there because they have almost a whole wall with nothing but books. I looked and looked and looked but couldn't see any. So, I figured I'd ask the kid who works there if he could help me out. He told me he didn't normally work in that part of the store but he was nice and said he'd help me look. You know, he didn't know who Dreiser was either. Anyway, we went back and forth and back and forth along that whole wall and couldn't find any Dreiser books. I told him I was really surprised that store a store as big as his didn't have it. He suggested I go to the mall and look there. I don't know why I hadn't thought of that in the first place. I guess I was just being lazy and went to the store that was closest. Anyway, I went to the mall. This mall is big! It has a JCPenney in it! To make a long story short, I still haven't found one of those Dreiser books. Don't worry though, I'll get a hold of one and keep you posted.

Anyway, you know kind of books I really like? Remember I told you in my first posting that I like books with lots of pictures? The best kind is when you have all the words on one page and a picture on the facing page. This helps the reader figure out what the book writer is talking about. How can you get a really good impression of what the person in the book is supposed to look like, for example, if there's no picture? This way you just have to look over to the other page and there he or she is. Coffee table books are great books too.

Anyway, this posting is getting too long so I'll stop here for now. I'll let you know how I'm progressing and keep you up to date.

3:36 PM  
Blogger manley said...

Hey Mr. Ewing:

Once again, I’m proud to say, I made it through that tricky sign-in process on your site. Now I know why it is there. It helps keep out people who aren’t too smart. Luckily, for all of those who visit your site, I got in after not too many tries.

I’m really glad you enjoyed my first two postings. I was nervous, at first, to think of the many thousands of people who would be reading what I wrote. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that what I had to say was important. I don’t mean to boast, but, simply put, I am a Renaissance kind of guy. Who knows, perhaps via your site I will help many people learn to love great books. This is the perfect way for me to share my insight.

Well, as I told you in my last posting, I’m having some problems getting my hands on one of those Dreiser books. None of the stores on my bus route have been able to help me out. Even the high school student who works in the book aisle of my local CVS, who in the past has been so good with helping me locate books, was of no help. Even the nearby mall came up short. I’m quickly getting the impression this Dreiser character isn’t too popular. No one at these stores seems to know of him. While at the mall, I even checked Blockbuster and Hollywood Video to see whether any of Dreiser’s books had been turned into movies. I must not have looked on the right racks. There were none under “recent releases”. Perhaps I should have looked on the “classics” rack. I find that watching a video is much more rewarding than reading the book because you can actually see what the book is about instead of trying to figure out what the writer is attempting to say with all those words. Visual learning is so much easier, not to mention the time factor of a video compared to a book. A few of the books I have in my personal library have close to two hundred pages! The time needed to get through a fat book like that is prohibitive for most readers. As you already know, I prefer books with lots and lots of pictures. This leads me to an important literary concept – word to picture ratio, or as the academicians refer to it, WPR. WPR is unavoidable when discussing good books. I don’t know whether you’ve ever come across this term in any of your studies, but I believe it’s an integral part of any meaningful literary discussion. The more pictures a book has, the better the reader can truly understand what is going on. As I told you previously, one of my all time favorite kind of books is the so called “Coffee Table Book”. This is a prime example of superb WPR factor. Anyway, I don’t want this discussion to get too lofty and possibly confuse any visitors to your site. I know you want to keep these discussions at a level most readers can understand, so I’ll stop here. If your readers insist, we can continue this dialogue another time.

I promise not to give up on my search for one of these Dreiser books. Hopefully readers of your site will be inspired by my diligence. I encourage them to check back often to monitor my success. One young lady, whom I’ve know my entire life, presented me with a very good question. Why hadn’t I checked Dollar General? I could not give her a good reason. The next time I’m there grocery shopping, I promise to inquire. My experience tells me, however, that that particular retailer tends to stock more along the lines of the light classics. By the way, while on the subject of Dollar General, I highly recommend their wine selection. There are several different boxes (straw included!) from which to choose. They carry carbonated, non-carbonated, and most of the fruit flavors as well. May I also suggest picking up their 5 pound econo-size tub of Velveeta to go along with the wine? (If you present your Dollar General card at check out, you will receive a handsome discount.) After all, we literary connoisseurs know there’s nothing like relaxing in one’s favorite chair with the current Reader’s Digest, a blob of cheese, and a strong wine. If you’re looking to share your evening of reading with that special person, simply get a second straw.

Well, I must stop here so as not to be considered verbose. When I look at the other postings on your site, I can’t help but notice their brevity. Hopefully the kind folk who pen those postings will not become intimidated by my contributions. I encourage them to keep trying. Their contributions are valuable, no matter how simple they may be. To them I say, please don’t think of me as pretentious or snobbish.

Until next time,
Mr. Manley

10:21 AM  
Blogger Northcoastin said...

Mr. Ewing,

Richard Brautigan referred to An American Tragedy as "an ugly masterpiece." Well, maybe those weren't his exact words, but that seems to convey his meaning as well as anything, considering of course that it's Richard Brautigan we're talking about.
There is something about Dreiser that reminds me of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Both authors require a reader to have more of an interest in men's clothing than most of us do today.

As an undergraduate I asked myself "what the hell?" as Daisy Buchanan grazed like an ecstatic gazelle through the veldt of Jay's shirts. Likewise, Hurstwood and Drouet have a kind of a running GQ smackdown in the pages of Sister Carrie.

Yes, yes, clothes make the man and all that. But were our forefathers and foremothers really so shallow as Dreiser and Fitzgeral make them sound? Or was there a codification of wardrobe in those days that was not just a signpost of status, but a hefty component of status in itself?

Whatever. To parse these books, we seem to need a hefty introduction to the haberdashery of the Jazz Age and my God can you imagine anything so tedious as a scholarly examination of the social implication of spats?

I suppose you can read Moby Dick without a solid grounding in the Bible, but pretty soon you'd be wondering WHY the narrator wanted you to call him Ishmael in the first place. It's the same with Hurstwood's shoes or the number of buttons on the jacket the Old Sport (forget his name, but we was played in the movie by the actor who was Jack McCoy in Law and Order) wears over to see Gatsby.

Mencken holds up better than Dreiser, anyway.

8:34 PM  

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