Benjamin Kahn's Reviews > An American Tragedy

An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
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's review
Mar 18, 2012

it was ok
Read from January 19 to February 17, 2013

This book was interesting enough for the first two parts, although ever now and then I'd hit a snag and have to grind through until it picked up again. This ended with the final part of the book - the trial and punishment. It became excruciatingly slow, with especially during the prosecutors recap of details that we'd already lived through. This book would have done well if it was three or four hundred pages shorter. I understand why the author felt he had to include Clyde's handwringing and indecisiveness, but it's agony to read.

Interestingly enough, I read Ford Madox Ford's The Good Soldier at the same time I was reading An American Tragedy, the foreward of which quoted from Dreiser's review extensively where Dreiser took issue with Ford's back and forth approach to telling the narrative. Dreiser said that a story should be told in a straightforward manner - beginning, middle and end. Dreiser does this with An American Tragedy, but he does it in such a monotonous, detail-oriented way that the story tends to lose itself under the weight of the details. For a book of this length, I would expect more subtlety and at least a couple of subplots to keep my interest up. In the end, I found this to be a very heavy-handed telling of a fairly simple story, and too long by half.

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