Theodore Dreiser 5

Richard Lingeman, Author Putnam Adult $39.95 (2p) ISBN 978-0-399-13520-0
The concluding installment of Lingeman's ( Small Town Americasic ) two-volume biography finds Dreiser (1871-1945) employed in midlife as an editor at Butterfield Publications, having published his first novel, Sister Carrie --but not for long. The literary renegade abruptly left wife and job to sweat it out as a writer in New York's Greenwich Village, subsisting on little but ambivalent critical notices until the tidal-wave success of An American Tragedy . Lingeman, executive editor of the Nation , immerses himself in the history of the American left to make sense of Dreiser's engagement with Stalinism and with the Communist flank of American syndicalism, discovering considerable political astuteness in Dreiser's partisan activity. This portrait, based on letters and journals, shows a clearer thinker than is usually conveyed by Dreiser's reputation as a curmudgeon unable to pen a navigable sentence. Lingeman avoids simple assessment, forging beyond Freudian cliches in considering Dreiser's sexual identity, with its simultaneous striving for freedom and stability. On the whole, his is an undeluded, jargon-free biography which finds much to admire in both the man and his work. Photos not seen by PW. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 10/01/1990
Release date: 10/01/1990
Paperback - 672 pages - 978-0-471-57426-2
Hardcover - 2 pages - 978-0-399-13147-9
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