Paul's Reviews > An American Tragedy

An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
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Jan 04, 11

bookshelves: really-big-timeconsumers, novels

I remember reading this one, years ago, in a really bad flat in Mapperley Park. It was so horribly dusty all the time. That was because I never dusted. And when I looked out of my window I saw a wall. And when I looked out of my other window, I saw a different wall.

Much like the hero of this brilliant novel - metaphorically speaking. And then, one day, in the wall, he notices a door. And he wants to open it and pass through to somewhere better. The very thing that other reviewers didn't like about this whopping novel was what made it another of my great reading experiences (which I remember like the memory of passing through something tremendous as if it was the Grand Canyon and not a novel at all) : they didn't like, but I did, the painful awful awe-full inevitability of the events, the doom of the characters, the dance of death we get drawn into for the last 200 pages - it's a quadrille, very formal, the partners are the characters, the plot, the author and ourselves, us, the readers. It's like a nightmare you can't wake up from. We know that, the characters know that, they're screaming, we're screaming, Dreiser has us caught in his fist of words and won't let us go until we know how it is that ordinary people can do terrible things which they never wanted to, they would have sold their souls not to, but they did.
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Comments (showing 1-27 of 27) (27 new)

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Rhonda Waller Love your review.


Paul thanks!


message 3: by Ian (new)

Ian Heidin[+]Fisch Excellent.

I don't think I've read it.

While wondering about the film versions, I discovered this on Wiki:

* Dreiser strongly disapproved of a 1931 film version directed by Josef von Sternberg and released by Paramount.

* In the 1932 Marx Brothers movie Horse Feathers, Groucho Marx, riding in a boat with a woman, remarks, "You know, this is the first time I've been in a canoe since I saw the American Tragedy."

* The 1951 Paramount Pictures film "A Place in the Sun", directed by George Stevens and starring Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift, is strongly based on the novel, and is considered one of the finest dramatic films made in the 1950s.


Paul I was catching up with some must-see movies from the 50s and A Place in the Sun was one of them. It's nearly great. And it has the drop dead Elizabeth Taylor in it who, as the phrase goes, was never lovelier. Worth catching for that alone.


message 5: by Ian (new)

Ian Heidin[+]Fisch Have you made a list of must-see movies from the 50s?


Paul yes of course - from Ace in the Hole to The Westerner. But I'm not an expert by a long chalk. There's lots I haven't got to yet. I remember The Man with the Golden Arm and Days of Wine & Roses being particularly great - even though the latter is early 60s!


message 7: by Ian (new)

Ian Heidin[+]Fisch The Days of Wine & Roses was later to be co-opted as the title of the first album of one of my favourite bands.

It was the sound of 1982 for me.


message 8: by Searock (new)

Searock Damn, you give good review :)


message 9: by Donna (new) - added it

Donna Then I will stick with it.


message 10: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth Below Um, your review gave me goosebumps. Thank you.


message 11: by Paul (new) - rated it 5 stars

Paul It was my pleasure.


message 12: by Scott (new)

Scott Hey I have a question. Is this book explicit? Moreover, sexually explicit?


message 13: by Paul (new) - rated it 5 stars

Paul No, not at all.


Rhonda Waller PAUL! You are still getting positive comments on your review of this book a year later! Is your head big yet?


message 15: by Paul (new) - rated it 5 stars

Paul this is nothing, check out the love on my reviews of Let the Right One In and The Wind Up Bird Chronicle.... ! Yes, I am an intolerably swollen headed reviewer...


Lynda Excellent review! I've just finished the book and had to look up what others thought. I insanely hoped for a happy ending. After getting close to all the characters, it's hard to let even one go, despite their obvious misdeeds. Alas, we have to keep in mind that the book is indeed, a tragedy, and that one should never hope for a blissful ending. Bravo on your take on this wonderful book!


message 17: by Paul (new) - rated it 5 stars

Paul Thanks Lynda - I wonder what his other stuff is like. Couldn't be as good as this one.


Lynda I have read Sister Carrie and you're right. An American Tragedy is far better.


message 19: by Roz (new) - added it

Roz Paul, I am sorry, I hit the unlike button by mistake, need new glasses. I did not mean it, really!


message 20: by Paul (last edited Oct 31, 2013 02:29PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Paul no prob, I think you re-liked it - FYI no one gets informed of unlikes, as far as I know.


message 21: by Roz (new) - added it

Roz Yes, I did re-like it. Good enough.


message 22: by Roz (new) - added it

Roz Paul wrote: "this is nothing, check out the love on my reviews of Let the Right One In and The Wind Up Bird Chronicle.... ! Yes, I am an intolerably swollen headed reviewer..." Hello Paul,
I would like to read your review of "Let the Right One In" but I don't know where to find it, after searching for the book title I found it in multiples by different authors. Of which one do you speak? Roz


message 24: by Roz (new) - added it

Roz So, let me get this straight, you liked the book and movie but hate Sweden...Your review was "biting", your intelligence level is way above mine, fact, not a plea for compliments. I just wish I could write the way you do. Thanks, Paul, for the link. Roz

ps. I like books by Swedish writers, loved the Dragon Tatoo series, love the Scaarsgards (sp) and Lars Von Trier films.


message 25: by Roz (new) - added it

Roz I never read An American Tragedy but the film A Place in the Sun is one of my all time favorites. I think I would like to read that book.


message 26: by Paul (new) - rated it 5 stars

Paul Aw, I don't hate Sweden, it just gets on my nerves a lot!

Elizabeth Taylor in A Place in the Sun is just stunning.


message 27: by Roz (new) - added it

Roz Tell Mama, tell Mama all.


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