Saturday, November 19, 2005

Frank and Aileen Are In Chicago - Watch Out...

Hello people. You'll note it's Saturday night. You're thinking: pathetic, the poor fellow is writing this Dreiser blog on a Saturday night. Yup. That's right. And glad to be doing it, too. That's just the kind of insouciance (go ahead, look that one up) a person can assume at the ripe old age of _4!

Anyway, you'll note the title of this post - about Frank and Aileen. That's the Cowperwoods, making their mark in the Windy City and Frank is kicking butt and taking names. This is how The Titan opens.

I'm glad to be back with Dreiser's three dimensional characters; they're almost life like; in fact, you'd think they are real, or were real, since in this early part of the novel the year is 1878.

I have to compare this to the short stories. Sad. Depressing. Morose. Unhappy. Jeez. The thing is, in the novels, Dreiser's characters can have some raucus times. Look at Clyde learning to dance in Tragedy. Or Clyde and his fellow bellhops ordering drinks at dinner after work. Or Frank's parties at his new house in Philadelphia. Or Charles and George at the "resort" in Carrie. No fun in the short stories (at least the ones I read). Mostly, these stories were recountings of a single person, recollective, frustrated, trapped. Yes, they may be well written, but they're not easy to read. And another comment: they're almost too old; in many ways they are dated, with characters stuck in a world that's long gone, and their struggles and challenges are stuck there, too.

Now consider the opening text from Chapter 2 of The Titan:

"The city of Chicago, with whose development the personality of Frank Algernon Cowperwood was soon to be definitely linked! To whom may the laurels as laureate of this Florence of the West yet fall? This singing flame of a city, this all America, this poet in chaps and buckskin, this rude, raw Titan, this Burns of a city! By its shimmering lake it lay, a king of shreds and patches, a maundering yokel with an epic in its mouth, a tramp, a hobo among cities, with the grip of Caesar in its mind, the dramatic force of Euripides in its soul."

Wow. Now that's some writing. Powerful images, dreamlike, burlesque, historical in scope, romantic, classic, modern - all at the same time. That force isn't in the short stories. Also missing are Dreiser's fantastic, weird characters. Consider the introduction to General Van Sickle, Franks' lawyer in The Titan:

"The old soldier, over fifty, had been a general of division during the Civil War, and had got his real start in life by filing false titles to property in southern Illinois, and then bringing suits to substantiate his fraudulent claims before friendly associates." Hey, it's just business. Remember, the General is Frank's lawyer. How can fun things not lie ahead?

Gotta stop. Because, it is Saturday night and I think Lawrence Welk reruns are on soon on our PBS station here in Cincinnati.

By the way, if you would be interested in an e-mail notice telling when there is a new post on this blog, send me your e-mail address and I will notify you and I will keep all e-mails confidential. Unless, of course, you are an associate of General Van Sickle and the Cook County prosecutor is looking for you... But surely there aren't people like the General any more are there? Send your e-mail to:


Blogger Tom Ewing said...

Mr. Ewing - What a marvelous description of the Windy City! I believe it is as accurate today as it was...yesterday!

Please keep the blogs about T. Dreiser coming! I look forward to them and enjoy them!


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