An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
Publisher/Year: Penguin, 2009 (orig. 1925)
Format: E-book (Libby)
The classic depiction of the harsh realities of American life, the dark side of the American Dream, and one man’s doomed pursuit of love and success…
What I thought
Okay. So. Here we go. Where to begin? This book was a struggle. Ultimately, I’m glad I read it–partly because it is a classic and partly because I’m feeling a little proud of myself for sticking with it. I even struggled with what to rate this. One star didn’t feel right because even though I can say that I did not enjoy my read of this, I can appreciate what Dreiser did here. So, two stars it is.
Like I said, I “get” what Dreiser was trying to do here. And it’s obviously compelling enough to keep me reading to the end of this brick of a novel. There’s much here to contemplate and discuss–hence, its status as a classic. However, for really the entirety of this book, I just felt like I was slogging through it. I have read for more reasons than just enjoyment, but there were just too many things as a reader that I struggled with here.
First and foremost, I don’t care what anyone says–this book was TOO LONG. I do not need to know which direction this lake lies from that lake and which members of the law posse went this direction and which went that. It was TOO MUCH. My eyes were drying out in my head, which was getting hit over and over with the point Dreiser was making.
Also, I just really did not mesh well with Dreiser’s writing style. It felt very uneven to me. It would go from short and sweet (if campy) dialogue to these long expositions with sentences that had 45 subordinating clauses. Maybe that’s to someone’s taste, but unfortunately not to mine. I prefer writing that flows. Flowery prose I can handle (Dickens is my fav), but those clauses were painful. (You know what else was painful? Sondra’s baby talk–GAG.)
Finally, I just have to say that I did not like a single character in this book. Well, okay, I take that back–I did feel for Roberta, but she was more wet noodle-y than I can stand. But Clyde–oh, Clyde, how I abhorred you. I can appreciate an unlikeable character. When done well, they can be a testament to humanity. Clyde was a whiny, selfish, self-indulgent jerk, with literally not one redeeming quality. In his final moments in this book, I felt more pity for his mom than for him. Clyde was just the worst. I know I’m supposed to feel the tragedy of what unavoidable fate deemed to happen with the rise and fall of a man, but I just don’t. Maybe I’m heartless (it’s probably that), or maybe this just isn’t my book.
So. I’m glad I finished. I’m glad I checked this out from the library. I’m glad I can now enter discussions about this book. But mostly, I’m glad I am finished.