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Selected by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best novels of all time

"American writing, before and after Dreiser's time, differed almost as much as biology before and after Darwin," said H. L. Mencken. Sister Carrie, Dreiser's great first novel, transformed the conventional "fallen woman" story into a bold and truly innovative piece of fiction when it appeared in 1900. Naïve young Caroline Meeber, a small-town girl seduced by the lure of the modern city, becomes the mistress of a traveling salesman and then of a saloon manager, who elopes with her to New York. Both its subject matter and Dreiser's unsparing, nonjudgmental approach made Sister Carrie a controversial book in its time, and the work retains the power to shock readers today.

"Sister Carrie came to housebound and airless America like a great free Western wind, and to our stuffy domesticity gave us the first fresh air since Mark Twain and Whitman," noted Sinclair Lewis. "Dreiser enlarged, willy-nilly, by a kind of historical accident if you will, the range of American literature," observed Robert Penn Warren. "[Sister Carrie] is a vivid and absorbing work of art."


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A book that is awkward and stuttering in some places, and very interesting and insightful in others - characteristic Dreiser. The last 150 pages somehow redeem the first 350. If I were a less patient person, I probably would have given up on him long ago.more
A book that is awkward and stuttering in some places, and very interesting and insightful in others - characteristic Dreiser. The last 150 pages somehow redeem the first 350. If I were a less patient person, I probably would have given up on him long ago.more
A book that is awkward and stuttering in some places, and very interesting and insightful in others - characteristic Dreiser. The last 150 pages somehow redeem the first 350. If I were a less patient person, I probably would have given up on him long ago.more
I was not familiar with this author, who lived around the late 19th, early 20th century, but spotted this novel at Barnes & Noble. It's published in B&N's classics series that I like because they are very reasonably priced. They seem to be well edited- very rarely I find typos or other mistakes and they contain an introductory essay by written currently; typically by a college professor that is an expert in that author's works and life.Sister Carrie is an interesting novel that traces the life-paths of two individuals. Carrie, whose life progresses from a poverty background growing up in Wisconsin, and moves to Chicago searching for a better life, and eventually becomes a successful actress in New York City. And George Hurtswood who is the manager of a respectable bar in Chicago and whose life ends by killing himself after his last years spent in poverty and destitution in New York City. Although Carrie is presumably the central character in the novel, after all it's eponimously named, Hurtswood may be the more interesting person. His gradual descent into deprivation, while remembering his former wealthy station, is depressing reading some times. Reading this brings to mind the comment that Francesca da Rimini says to Dante, when he encounters her in the second circle of hell:"Nessun maggior doloreche ricordarsi del tempo felicene la miseria; e cio` sa 'l tuo dottore"Longfellow's translation is: "There is no greater sorrow/ Than to be mindful of the happy time / In misery, and that thy Teacher knows"In any event, Francesca's statement fits very well the state that Hurtswood saw himself from time to time, as he descended into the hell of his own creation. I don't want to spell out the plot and its details, I let any person who wants to read the novel find it by him/herself. If you want to read an entertaining novel that carries (no pun intended) and keeps you interested for a couple of days, but has no overall redeeming value or no real discussion or consideration of ethical or moral issues, this is a good one for you. Also, I'm no prude but I find it refreshing to read a novel without overt sex and extreme use of foul language such as seems to be prevalent in most modern fiction. But, as one of our fellow LT readers puts it: "... people use foul language because their vocabulary is not extensive enough to express their feelings in any other way. I feel the same way about an author's gratuitous use of it."more
I was not familiar with this author, who lived around the late 19th, early 20th century, but spotted this novel at Barnes & Noble. It's published in B&N's classics series that I like because they are very reasonably priced. They seem to be well edited- very rarely I find typos or other mistakes and they contain an introductory essay by written currently; typically by a college professor that is an expert in that author's works and life.Sister Carrie is an interesting novel that traces the life-paths of two individuals. Carrie, whose life progresses from a poverty background growing up in Wisconsin, and moves to Chicago searching for a better life, and eventually becomes a successful actress in New York City. And George Hurtswood who is the manager of a respectable bar in Chicago and whose life ends by killing himself after his last years spent in poverty and destitution in New York City. Although Carrie is presumably the central character in the novel, after all it's eponimously named, Hurtswood may be the more interesting person. His gradual descent into deprivation, while remembering his former wealthy station, is depressing reading some times. Reading this brings to mind the comment that Francesca da Rimini says to Dante, when he encounters her in the second circle of hell:"Nessun maggior doloreche ricordarsi del tempo felicene la miseria; e cio` sa 'l tuo dottore"Longfellow's translation is: "There is no greater sorrow/ Than to be mindful of the happy time / In misery, and that thy Teacher knows"In any event, Francesca's statement fits very well the state that Hurtswood saw himself from time to time, as he descended into the hell of his own creation. I don't want to spell out the plot and its details, I let any person who wants to read the novel find it by him/herself. If you want to read an entertaining novel that carries (no pun intended) and keeps you interested for a couple of days, but has no overall redeeming value or no real discussion or consideration of ethical or moral issues, this is a good one for you. Also, I'm no prude but I find it refreshing to read a novel without overt sex and extreme use of foul language such as seems to be prevalent in most modern fiction. But, as one of our fellow LT readers puts it: "... people use foul language because their vocabulary is not extensive enough to express their feelings in any other way. I feel the same way about an author's gratuitous use of it."more
When the heroine, Carrie, was first introduced as a naive small-town girl heading to Chicago and falling for the advances of a travelling salesman on the train, I was worried that this would be a simple tragedy, where the helpless Carrie gets chewed up by the big city and ruined.Fortunately, the book is a lot more interesting than that. Carrie does suffer, she does get disillusioned, but she also fights back and makes a concerted attempt to find happiness, and the results are far from predictable. Some of the men who try to prey on her end up as victims themselves, while Carrie experiences a real mix of good luck and bad. Dreiser's writing style is a little verbose by modern standards, but still the story moves along quickly enough. The author also puts in some moral judgments and quasi-scientific explanations for the characters' actions, things which a modern writer would leave out but which work fine as artefacts of the age. The story was compelling and unpredictable, and I'm glad I read it.more
In Sister Carrie, Dreiser writes as an unflinching realist, and there seem to be two main thrusts to his message: first, that despite its democratic ideal, late 19th century America was still divided into classes – those that are very poor and struggling, and those that are affluent and comfortable within the “walled city”. Secondly, as Leibovitz states in this edition’s introduction, that “mankind is stranded in evolutionary limbo: too far removed from natural instinct to behaving according to its dictates, and too inchoate to govern the self according to the dictates of reason.” The result is erratic behavior, and people using one another while having pretensions to finer feelings. It’s a bleak view.After moving to Chicago to be with her sister and her brother-in-law, Carrie determines early on that the ‘hard life’ is not for her, and then resorts to using the attention of men to her advantage. The men end up making fools of themselves, in particular Hurstwoood, who goes from the suave manager at the Fitzgerald and Moy saloon to utter ruin, a portrayal that many believe is the best part of the book.That may be, but the problem I have with Sister Carrie is it’s poorly written. It’s not lyrical in the slightest and badly in need of editing; awkward prose abounds and is hard to get used to. An example, from the beginning of Chapter 17: “The, to Carrie, very important theatrical performance was to take place at the Avery on conditions which were to make it more noteworthy than was at first anticipated.” Another is this odd use of punctuation (what are the colon and the comma doing in this sentence?): “She might have been said to imagining: herself in love, when she was not.”Furthermore, Dreiser offers few pearls of wisdom, and I don’t think it took much skill to write this book. I would recommend Zola or Balzac if you want fiction of this type; they not only predate Dreiser but are better writers. And yet, I extract quotes nonetheless. :) On love:“A real flame of love is a subtle thing. It burns as a will-o’-the-wisp, dancing onward to fairy lands of delight. It roars as a furnace. Too often jealousy is the quality upon which it feeds.”On marriage going stale:“On this trip he enjoyed himself thoroughly, and when it was over he was sorry to get back. He was not willingly a prevaricator, and hated thoroughly to make explanations concerning it. The whole incident was glossed over with general remarks, but Mrs. Hurstwood gave the subject considerable thought. She drove out more, dressed better, and attended theatres freely to make up for it.Such an atmosphere could hardly come under the category of home life. It ran along by force of habit, by force of conventional opinion. With the lapse of time it must necessarily become dryer and dryer – must eventually be tinder, easily lighted and destroyed.”On pathos, this while watching a stage performance:“Hurstwood began to feel a deep sympathy for her and for himself. He could almost feel that she was talking to him. He was, by a combination of feelings and entanglements, almost deluded by the quality of voice and manner which, like a pathetic strain of music, seems ever a personal and intimate thing. Pathos has this quality, that it seems ever addressed to one alone.”On women, ok, on looking at women:“Drouet had a habit, characteristic of his kind, of looking after stylishly dressed or pretty women on the street and remarking upon them. He had just enough of the feminine love of dress to be a good judge – not of intellect, but of clothes. He saw how they set their little feet, how they carried their chins, with what grace and sinuosity they swung their bodies. A dainty, self-conscious swaying of the hips by a woman was to him as alluring as the glint of rare wine to a toper. He would turn and follow the disappearing vision with his eyes. He would thrill as a child with the unhindered passion that was in him. He loved the thing that women love in themselves, grace. At this, their own shrine, he knelt with them, an ardent devotee.”And:“She did not want anything to do with him. He was married, he had deceived her once, and now again, and she thought him terrible. Still there is something in such daring and power which is fascinating to a woman, especially if she can be made to feel that it is all prompted by love of her.”more
In Sister Carrie, Dreiser writes as an unflinching realist, and there seem to be two main thrusts to his message: first, that despite its democratic ideal, late 19th century America was still divided into classes – those that are very poor and struggling, and those that are affluent and comfortable within the “walled city”. Secondly, as Leibovitz states in this edition’s introduction, that “mankind is stranded in evolutionary limbo: too far removed from natural instinct to behaving according to its dictates, and too inchoate to govern the self according to the dictates of reason.” The result is erratic behavior, and people using one another while having pretensions to finer feelings. It’s a bleak view.After moving to Chicago to be with her sister and her brother-in-law, Carrie determines early on that the ‘hard life’ is not for her, and then resorts to using the attention of men to her advantage. The men end up making fools of themselves, in particular Hurstwoood, who goes from the suave manager at the Fitzgerald and Moy saloon to utter ruin, a portrayal that many believe is the best part of the book.That may be, but the problem I have with Sister Carrie is it’s poorly written. It’s not lyrical in the slightest and badly in need of editing; awkward prose abounds and is hard to get used to. An example, from the beginning of Chapter 17: “The, to Carrie, very important theatrical performance was to take place at the Avery on conditions which were to make it more noteworthy than was at first anticipated.” Another is this odd use of punctuation (what are the colon and the comma doing in this sentence?): “She might have been said to imagining: herself in love, when she was not.”Furthermore, Dreiser offers few pearls of wisdom, and I don’t think it took much skill to write this book. I would recommend Zola or Balzac if you want fiction of this type; they not only predate Dreiser but are better writers. And yet, I extract quotes nonetheless. :) On love:“A real flame of love is a subtle thing. It burns as a will-o’-the-wisp, dancing onward to fairy lands of delight. It roars as a furnace. Too often jealousy is the quality upon which it feeds.”On marriage going stale:“On this trip he enjoyed himself thoroughly, and when it was over he was sorry to get back. He was not willingly a prevaricator, and hated thoroughly to make explanations concerning it. The whole incident was glossed over with general remarks, but Mrs. Hurstwood gave the subject considerable thought. She drove out more, dressed better, and attended theatres freely to make up for it.Such an atmosphere could hardly come under the category of home life. It ran along by force of habit, by force of conventional opinion. With the lapse of time it must necessarily become dryer and dryer – must eventually be tinder, easily lighted and destroyed.”On pathos, this while watching a stage performance:“Hurstwood began to feel a deep sympathy for her and for himself. He could almost feel that she was talking to him. He was, by a combination of feelings and entanglements, almost deluded by the quality of voice and manner which, like a pathetic strain of music, seems ever a personal and intimate thing. Pathos has this quality, that it seems ever addressed to one alone.”On women, ok, on looking at women:“Drouet had a habit, characteristic of his kind, of looking after stylishly dressed or pretty women on the street and remarking upon them. He had just enough of the feminine love of dress to be a good judge – not of intellect, but of clothes. He saw how they set their little feet, how they carried their chins, with what grace and sinuosity they swung their bodies. A dainty, self-conscious swaying of the hips by a woman was to him as alluring as the glint of rare wine to a toper. He would turn and follow the disappearing vision with his eyes. He would thrill as a child with the unhindered passion that was in him. He loved the thing that women love in themselves, grace. At this, their own shrine, he knelt with them, an ardent devotee.”And:“She did not want anything to do with him. He was married, he had deceived her once, and now again, and she thought him terrible. Still there is something in such daring and power which is fascinating to a woman, especially if she can be made to feel that it is all prompted by love of her.”more
In Sister Carrie, Dreiser writes as an unflinching realist, and there seem to be two main thrusts to his message: first, that despite its democratic ideal, late 19th century America was still divided into classes – those that are very poor and struggling, and those that are affluent and comfortable within the “walled city”. Secondly, as Leibovitz states in this edition’s introduction, that “mankind is stranded in evolutionary limbo: too far removed from natural instinct to behaving according to its dictates, and too inchoate to govern the self according to the dictates of reason.” The result is erratic behavior, and people using one another while having pretensions to finer feelings. It’s a bleak view.After moving to Chicago to be with her sister and her brother-in-law, Carrie determines early on that the ‘hard life’ is not for her, and then resorts to using the attention of men to her advantage. The men end up making fools of themselves, in particular Hurstwoood, who goes from the suave manager at the Fitzgerald and Moy saloon to utter ruin, a portrayal that many believe is the best part of the book.That may be, but the problem I have with Sister Carrie is it’s poorly written. It’s not lyrical in the slightest and badly in need of editing; awkward prose abounds and is hard to get used to. An example, from the beginning of Chapter 17: “The, to Carrie, very important theatrical performance was to take place at the Avery on conditions which were to make it more noteworthy than was at first anticipated.” Another is this odd use of punctuation (what are the colon and the comma doing in this sentence?): “She might have been said to imagining: herself in love, when she was not.”Furthermore, Dreiser offers few pearls of wisdom, and I don’t think it took much skill to write this book. I would recommend Zola or Balzac if you want fiction of this type; they not only predate Dreiser but are better writers. And yet, I extract quotes nonetheless. :) On love:“A real flame of love is a subtle thing. It burns as a will-o’-the-wisp, dancing onward to fairy lands of delight. It roars as a furnace. Too often jealousy is the quality upon which it feeds.”On marriage going stale:“On this trip he enjoyed himself thoroughly, and when it was over he was sorry to get back. He was not willingly a prevaricator, and hated thoroughly to make explanations concerning it. The whole incident was glossed over with general remarks, but Mrs. Hurstwood gave the subject considerable thought. She drove out more, dressed better, and attended theatres freely to make up for it.Such an atmosphere could hardly come under the category of home life. It ran along by force of habit, by force of conventional opinion. With the lapse of time it must necessarily become dryer and dryer – must eventually be tinder, easily lighted and destroyed.”On pathos, this while watching a stage performance:“Hurstwood began to feel a deep sympathy for her and for himself. He could almost feel that she was talking to him. He was, by a combination of feelings and entanglements, almost deluded by the quality of voice and manner which, like a pathetic strain of music, seems ever a personal and intimate thing. Pathos has this quality, that it seems ever addressed to one alone.”On women, ok, on looking at women:“Drouet had a habit, characteristic of his kind, of looking after stylishly dressed or pretty women on the street and remarking upon them. He had just enough of the feminine love of dress to be a good judge – not of intellect, but of clothes. He saw how they set their little feet, how they carried their chins, with what grace and sinuosity they swung their bodies. A dainty, self-conscious swaying of the hips by a woman was to him as alluring as the glint of rare wine to a toper. He would turn and follow the disappearing vision with his eyes. He would thrill as a child with the unhindered passion that was in him. He loved the thing that women love in themselves, grace. At this, their own shrine, he knelt with them, an ardent devotee.”And:“She did not want anything to do with him. He was married, he had deceived her once, and now again, and she thought him terrible. Still there is something in such daring and power which is fascinating to a woman, especially if she can be made to feel that it is all prompted by love of her.”more
Theodore Dreiser's tale of rags to riches and at the same time riches to rags is definitely a worthy tale to be told, but it is saddled with some considerable drawbacks keeping it from perfection. The male protagonists talk similarly with little to distinguish them from each other, the prose is riddled with cliches, and there's enough passages that go cloud-gazing that things may appear to be more tightly handled than they otherwise would be. The piling up of details is a fun little thing, though, and the writing despite being published at the turn of the century (the 20th century) is thoroughly modern.more
Far easier to absorb than "Tess of the d'Urbervilles", but still a maddeningly slow read. Not to mention that Carrie was the first FICTIONAL character to make me SHOUT at the book since Phillip in "Of Human Bondage", and that's saying something. If they were real, Carrie and Phillip should have married each other. They both had precisely the same amount of brains and moral stamina...oh wait! They didn't have any brains and moral stamina! They were both pretty pitiful.more
Far easier to absorb than "Tess of the d'Urbervilles", but still a maddeningly slow read. Not to mention that Carrie was the first FICTIONAL character to make me SHOUT at the book since Phillip in "Of Human Bondage", and that's saying something. If they were real, Carrie and Phillip should have married each other. They both had precisely the same amount of brains and moral stamina...oh wait! They didn't have any brains and moral stamina! They were both pretty pitiful.more
824 Sister Carrie, by Theodore Dreiser (read 18 Oct 1965) I saw the 1952 movie based on this book, starring Jennifer Jones, on Sept 17, 1952, and confess I remember the movie better than I do the reading of this book. But I do recall that I liked the book, and in my mind it is the best Dreiser novel I have read.more
824 Sister Carrie, by Theodore Dreiser (read 18 Oct 1965) I saw the 1952 movie based on this book, starring Jennifer Jones, on Sept 17, 1952, and confess I remember the movie better than I do the reading of this book. But I do recall that I liked the book, and in my mind it is the best Dreiser novel I have read.more
Read by my main character, Gracie Antes in my novel, Crestmont.Carrie turned out not to be the role model Gracie had hoped for.more
Read by my main character, Gracie Antes in my novel, Crestmont.Carrie turned out not to be the role model Gracie had hoped for.more
At the turn of the century, a country girl leaves home for the big city. At a time when the only choice for women was to marry well, Carrie shows us a different road. While her rabid ambition and vanity indicate her true nature, the society in which she navigates is harsh and unforgiving. Dreiser's portrait of the ugliness of human nature is stunning.more
At the turn of the century, a country girl leaves home for the big city. At a time when the only choice for women was to marry well, Carrie shows us a different road. While her rabid ambition and vanity indicate her true nature, the society in which she navigates is harsh and unforgiving. Dreiser's portrait of the ugliness of human nature is stunning.more
A naturalistic tour de force. A good girl is led astray, and there is a downward spiral, but not exactly as you might think. Very powerful and not the book to read if you are feeling down.more
A naturalistic tour de force. A good girl is led astray, and there is a downward spiral, but not exactly as you might think. Very powerful and not the book to read if you are feeling down.more
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted here illegally.) The CCLaP 100: In which I read for the first time a hundred so-called "classics," then write reports on whether or not they deserve the labelEssay #31: Sister Carrie (1900), by Theodore DreiserThe story in a nutshell:One of the last Victorian-style morality tales to make a big splash, Theodore Dreiser's 1900 Sister Carrie tells the story of late teen and rural Wisconsinite Caroline Meeber, who at the beginning of the novel moves to bustling post-Fire Chicago to start making a name for herself, staying at first with her sister Minnie and her dour Swedish husband over in the city's blue-collar west side. But alas, life in the pre-workers-rights Windy City is not exactly the bed of roses she thought it would be, with Carrie finding herself slaving away in dangerous sweatshops for almost no pay on the rare occasions she can find any work at all, becoming more afraid each day of turning into the hard, humorless housewife her older sister has become; so when she starts receiving gifts and attention from local middle-class playboy Charles Drouet, Carrie jumps at the chance, eventually even agreeing to live with him and accept an allowance even though Drouet is in not much of a mood to marry (one of the many "shocking" details that got this book banned when it first came out). Eventually, though, Carrie's charms become too tempting for Drouet's acquaintance George Hurstwood, a married retail manager living a comfortable existence up in Lincoln Park, who especially after watching Carrie's unexpectedly successful performance in a community play starts falling in love with her, eventually convincing her to leave Drouet on the promise that he will instead do the right thing and marry her (conveniently of course omitting the fact that he is already married and with children). Through a series of implausible plot developments, then (easy money stolen on a whim one night while drunk, flight from the law, a return of the money but subsequent social disgrace), the couple find themselves in 1890s New York, trying to resume a comfortable domestic life but with this becoming more and more difficult, due to the current recession and Hurstwood's lack of business contacts in this cold east-coast city. It's at this point that the plot essentially splits into two, as we watch Hurstwood's rather spectacular fall into destitution (the spending of his reserves, his stint as a train-conductor scab during a violent union strike, his eventual descent into homeless vagrancy), even as Carrie's fortunes improve just as dramatically, eventually leaving Hurstwood for a rising career on Broadway, the book ending with her rich and famous but still unhappy, and still unsure of what she wants out of life in the first place.The argument for it being a classic:The main reason this book should be considered a classic, argue its fans, is for the groundwork it laid for the literature that came right after it; because even though it was published right on the tail end of the Victorian Age, it in fact contains many of the seeds that would become the trademarks of Modernism a mere two decades later, things like an embrace of moral relativism and more prurient subject matter, not to mention a much more naturalistic writing style. In fact, it's no coincidence that Dreiser is considered one of the founders of the Naturalist school of literary thought (best typified anymore by European author Emile Zola, a writer Dreiser is often compared to), a movement similar to the Realism of Henry James and Edith Wharton of the same time period, in that both attempted to strip fiction of the flowery, overwritten purple prose so indicative of the Victorian Era. If not for the bold stylistic experiments of people like Dreiser, his fans argue, we would've never had the more perfected stylings of people like Henry Miller or William Faulkner just one generation later; and if not for his embrace of more modern subject matter (because let's never forget, this was one of the very first American novels to become known precisely for its sordid content and subsequent censorship), it would've never been possible for F Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway to write their truly transgressive books a mere twenty years later. The argument against:Ironically, critics of this book argue nearly the exact opposite of its fans: that despite it being written a mere two decades before the explosive birth of Modernism, it remains a badly dated relic of Victorianism, not a harbinger of things to come but a perfect example of the kind of tripe the Modernists were precisely railing against. And indeed, no matter what you think of Dreiser's appropriate place in history, it's hard to deny that his actual prose is awfully heavy-handed; despite his embrace of such modern concepts as unmarried couples "living in sin" and that some women might actually be better off as entertainment-industry floozies, the actual writing found in Sister Carrie is riddled with the exact kind of ponderous, directly-talking-to-the-audience nonsense that makes up the worst of Victorian literature, the kind of Bible-quoting finger wagging that we now cite when making fun of the genre. There's a very good reason that Dreiser was such a polarizing figure during his own lifetime, with conservative professors extolling his work and young rabble-rousers thumbing their noses at it; and that's because, critics argue, Dreiser was the last gasp of a form of the arts violently killed off during the first half of the 20th century, making him merely a minor footnote in history whether one is discussing Romanticism or Modernism. My verdict:So before anything else, let me make it clear what a delight this book was from a purely historical standpoint, and especially as a fellow Chicagoan; his description of how chaotic and exciting the Loop is on a Monday morning, for example, is so spot-on perfect that it could've literally been written yesterday, while his description of a lonely Garfield Park existing out in the middle of the wilderness, nothing around it except for a series of dirt roads and an occasional farmhouse, will be enough to make most locals' hearts flutter in nostalgic wonder. But that said, Sister Carrie may be the best example yet of one of the surprising conclusions I've discovered while writing this "CCLaP 100" essay series -- of just how relative and transitory our entire definition of "literary classic" actually is, given that the term is supposed to denote books that have a timeless quality. Because the fact of the matter is that throughout the entire first half of the 20th century, Dresier was breathlessly revered by the academic community in the same way they currently fawn over, say, John Updike, and in fact it's rare to find someone over the age of 60 these days who wasn't forced to read one of Dreiser's books back in high school or college themselves (usually An American Tragedy, his most famous). The reason, then, that in the early 2000s he is only known anymore by the most hardcore book-lovers out there is because what his critics claim is sadly but undeniably true: that although to Modernist eyes in the '50s and '60s Dreiser seemed merely stuffy and dated, to our own Postmodernist eyes his work is nearly unreadable, the exact kind of 19th-century fussy finery that 20th-century literature stamped out once and for all. It's nearly impossible in fact to read Sister Carrie anymore strictly for pleasure, with for example this book's listing at Goodreads littered with nightmarish accounts of people trying dozens of times to get through it, just to have the book disintegrate into pieces from the number of times they frustratingly threw it against the wall; like I said, although it was fascinating from a bibliophilic standpoint, and indeed did pave the way for the Modernist stories that came after it, it is in absolutely no way able to hold its own anymore as a simple tale to be enjoyed in a simple way. It's a perfect example of an argument I've been making more and more in this essay series, that the determination of whether or not a book is a "classic" is a much slippier notion than most of us realize; and that's why, although I myself personally enjoyed it, I have absolutely no hesitation in coming down on the "no" side of the classic question today. Is it a classic? Nomore
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Reviews

A book that is awkward and stuttering in some places, and very interesting and insightful in others - characteristic Dreiser. The last 150 pages somehow redeem the first 350. If I were a less patient person, I probably would have given up on him long ago.more
A book that is awkward and stuttering in some places, and very interesting and insightful in others - characteristic Dreiser. The last 150 pages somehow redeem the first 350. If I were a less patient person, I probably would have given up on him long ago.more
A book that is awkward and stuttering in some places, and very interesting and insightful in others - characteristic Dreiser. The last 150 pages somehow redeem the first 350. If I were a less patient person, I probably would have given up on him long ago.more
I was not familiar with this author, who lived around the late 19th, early 20th century, but spotted this novel at Barnes & Noble. It's published in B&N's classics series that I like because they are very reasonably priced. They seem to be well edited- very rarely I find typos or other mistakes and they contain an introductory essay by written currently; typically by a college professor that is an expert in that author's works and life.Sister Carrie is an interesting novel that traces the life-paths of two individuals. Carrie, whose life progresses from a poverty background growing up in Wisconsin, and moves to Chicago searching for a better life, and eventually becomes a successful actress in New York City. And George Hurtswood who is the manager of a respectable bar in Chicago and whose life ends by killing himself after his last years spent in poverty and destitution in New York City. Although Carrie is presumably the central character in the novel, after all it's eponimously named, Hurtswood may be the more interesting person. His gradual descent into deprivation, while remembering his former wealthy station, is depressing reading some times. Reading this brings to mind the comment that Francesca da Rimini says to Dante, when he encounters her in the second circle of hell:"Nessun maggior doloreche ricordarsi del tempo felicene la miseria; e cio` sa 'l tuo dottore"Longfellow's translation is: "There is no greater sorrow/ Than to be mindful of the happy time / In misery, and that thy Teacher knows"In any event, Francesca's statement fits very well the state that Hurtswood saw himself from time to time, as he descended into the hell of his own creation. I don't want to spell out the plot and its details, I let any person who wants to read the novel find it by him/herself. If you want to read an entertaining novel that carries (no pun intended) and keeps you interested for a couple of days, but has no overall redeeming value or no real discussion or consideration of ethical or moral issues, this is a good one for you. Also, I'm no prude but I find it refreshing to read a novel without overt sex and extreme use of foul language such as seems to be prevalent in most modern fiction. But, as one of our fellow LT readers puts it: "... people use foul language because their vocabulary is not extensive enough to express their feelings in any other way. I feel the same way about an author's gratuitous use of it."more
I was not familiar with this author, who lived around the late 19th, early 20th century, but spotted this novel at Barnes & Noble. It's published in B&N's classics series that I like because they are very reasonably priced. They seem to be well edited- very rarely I find typos or other mistakes and they contain an introductory essay by written currently; typically by a college professor that is an expert in that author's works and life.Sister Carrie is an interesting novel that traces the life-paths of two individuals. Carrie, whose life progresses from a poverty background growing up in Wisconsin, and moves to Chicago searching for a better life, and eventually becomes a successful actress in New York City. And George Hurtswood who is the manager of a respectable bar in Chicago and whose life ends by killing himself after his last years spent in poverty and destitution in New York City. Although Carrie is presumably the central character in the novel, after all it's eponimously named, Hurtswood may be the more interesting person. His gradual descent into deprivation, while remembering his former wealthy station, is depressing reading some times. Reading this brings to mind the comment that Francesca da Rimini says to Dante, when he encounters her in the second circle of hell:"Nessun maggior doloreche ricordarsi del tempo felicene la miseria; e cio` sa 'l tuo dottore"Longfellow's translation is: "There is no greater sorrow/ Than to be mindful of the happy time / In misery, and that thy Teacher knows"In any event, Francesca's statement fits very well the state that Hurtswood saw himself from time to time, as he descended into the hell of his own creation. I don't want to spell out the plot and its details, I let any person who wants to read the novel find it by him/herself. If you want to read an entertaining novel that carries (no pun intended) and keeps you interested for a couple of days, but has no overall redeeming value or no real discussion or consideration of ethical or moral issues, this is a good one for you. Also, I'm no prude but I find it refreshing to read a novel without overt sex and extreme use of foul language such as seems to be prevalent in most modern fiction. But, as one of our fellow LT readers puts it: "... people use foul language because their vocabulary is not extensive enough to express their feelings in any other way. I feel the same way about an author's gratuitous use of it."more
When the heroine, Carrie, was first introduced as a naive small-town girl heading to Chicago and falling for the advances of a travelling salesman on the train, I was worried that this would be a simple tragedy, where the helpless Carrie gets chewed up by the big city and ruined.Fortunately, the book is a lot more interesting than that. Carrie does suffer, she does get disillusioned, but she also fights back and makes a concerted attempt to find happiness, and the results are far from predictable. Some of the men who try to prey on her end up as victims themselves, while Carrie experiences a real mix of good luck and bad. Dreiser's writing style is a little verbose by modern standards, but still the story moves along quickly enough. The author also puts in some moral judgments and quasi-scientific explanations for the characters' actions, things which a modern writer would leave out but which work fine as artefacts of the age. The story was compelling and unpredictable, and I'm glad I read it.more
In Sister Carrie, Dreiser writes as an unflinching realist, and there seem to be two main thrusts to his message: first, that despite its democratic ideal, late 19th century America was still divided into classes – those that are very poor and struggling, and those that are affluent and comfortable within the “walled city”. Secondly, as Leibovitz states in this edition’s introduction, that “mankind is stranded in evolutionary limbo: too far removed from natural instinct to behaving according to its dictates, and too inchoate to govern the self according to the dictates of reason.” The result is erratic behavior, and people using one another while having pretensions to finer feelings. It’s a bleak view.After moving to Chicago to be with her sister and her brother-in-law, Carrie determines early on that the ‘hard life’ is not for her, and then resorts to using the attention of men to her advantage. The men end up making fools of themselves, in particular Hurstwoood, who goes from the suave manager at the Fitzgerald and Moy saloon to utter ruin, a portrayal that many believe is the best part of the book.That may be, but the problem I have with Sister Carrie is it’s poorly written. It’s not lyrical in the slightest and badly in need of editing; awkward prose abounds and is hard to get used to. An example, from the beginning of Chapter 17: “The, to Carrie, very important theatrical performance was to take place at the Avery on conditions which were to make it more noteworthy than was at first anticipated.” Another is this odd use of punctuation (what are the colon and the comma doing in this sentence?): “She might have been said to imagining: herself in love, when she was not.”Furthermore, Dreiser offers few pearls of wisdom, and I don’t think it took much skill to write this book. I would recommend Zola or Balzac if you want fiction of this type; they not only predate Dreiser but are better writers. And yet, I extract quotes nonetheless. :) On love:“A real flame of love is a subtle thing. It burns as a will-o’-the-wisp, dancing onward to fairy lands of delight. It roars as a furnace. Too often jealousy is the quality upon which it feeds.”On marriage going stale:“On this trip he enjoyed himself thoroughly, and when it was over he was sorry to get back. He was not willingly a prevaricator, and hated thoroughly to make explanations concerning it. The whole incident was glossed over with general remarks, but Mrs. Hurstwood gave the subject considerable thought. She drove out more, dressed better, and attended theatres freely to make up for it.Such an atmosphere could hardly come under the category of home life. It ran along by force of habit, by force of conventional opinion. With the lapse of time it must necessarily become dryer and dryer – must eventually be tinder, easily lighted and destroyed.”On pathos, this while watching a stage performance:“Hurstwood began to feel a deep sympathy for her and for himself. He could almost feel that she was talking to him. He was, by a combination of feelings and entanglements, almost deluded by the quality of voice and manner which, like a pathetic strain of music, seems ever a personal and intimate thing. Pathos has this quality, that it seems ever addressed to one alone.”On women, ok, on looking at women:“Drouet had a habit, characteristic of his kind, of looking after stylishly dressed or pretty women on the street and remarking upon them. He had just enough of the feminine love of dress to be a good judge – not of intellect, but of clothes. He saw how they set their little feet, how they carried their chins, with what grace and sinuosity they swung their bodies. A dainty, self-conscious swaying of the hips by a woman was to him as alluring as the glint of rare wine to a toper. He would turn and follow the disappearing vision with his eyes. He would thrill as a child with the unhindered passion that was in him. He loved the thing that women love in themselves, grace. At this, their own shrine, he knelt with them, an ardent devotee.”And:“She did not want anything to do with him. He was married, he had deceived her once, and now again, and she thought him terrible. Still there is something in such daring and power which is fascinating to a woman, especially if she can be made to feel that it is all prompted by love of her.”more
In Sister Carrie, Dreiser writes as an unflinching realist, and there seem to be two main thrusts to his message: first, that despite its democratic ideal, late 19th century America was still divided into classes – those that are very poor and struggling, and those that are affluent and comfortable within the “walled city”. Secondly, as Leibovitz states in this edition’s introduction, that “mankind is stranded in evolutionary limbo: too far removed from natural instinct to behaving according to its dictates, and too inchoate to govern the self according to the dictates of reason.” The result is erratic behavior, and people using one another while having pretensions to finer feelings. It’s a bleak view.After moving to Chicago to be with her sister and her brother-in-law, Carrie determines early on that the ‘hard life’ is not for her, and then resorts to using the attention of men to her advantage. The men end up making fools of themselves, in particular Hurstwoood, who goes from the suave manager at the Fitzgerald and Moy saloon to utter ruin, a portrayal that many believe is the best part of the book.That may be, but the problem I have with Sister Carrie is it’s poorly written. It’s not lyrical in the slightest and badly in need of editing; awkward prose abounds and is hard to get used to. An example, from the beginning of Chapter 17: “The, to Carrie, very important theatrical performance was to take place at the Avery on conditions which were to make it more noteworthy than was at first anticipated.” Another is this odd use of punctuation (what are the colon and the comma doing in this sentence?): “She might have been said to imagining: herself in love, when she was not.”Furthermore, Dreiser offers few pearls of wisdom, and I don’t think it took much skill to write this book. I would recommend Zola or Balzac if you want fiction of this type; they not only predate Dreiser but are better writers. And yet, I extract quotes nonetheless. :) On love:“A real flame of love is a subtle thing. It burns as a will-o’-the-wisp, dancing onward to fairy lands of delight. It roars as a furnace. Too often jealousy is the quality upon which it feeds.”On marriage going stale:“On this trip he enjoyed himself thoroughly, and when it was over he was sorry to get back. He was not willingly a prevaricator, and hated thoroughly to make explanations concerning it. The whole incident was glossed over with general remarks, but Mrs. Hurstwood gave the subject considerable thought. She drove out more, dressed better, and attended theatres freely to make up for it.Such an atmosphere could hardly come under the category of home life. It ran along by force of habit, by force of conventional opinion. With the lapse of time it must necessarily become dryer and dryer – must eventually be tinder, easily lighted and destroyed.”On pathos, this while watching a stage performance:“Hurstwood began to feel a deep sympathy for her and for himself. He could almost feel that she was talking to him. He was, by a combination of feelings and entanglements, almost deluded by the quality of voice and manner which, like a pathetic strain of music, seems ever a personal and intimate thing. Pathos has this quality, that it seems ever addressed to one alone.”On women, ok, on looking at women:“Drouet had a habit, characteristic of his kind, of looking after stylishly dressed or pretty women on the street and remarking upon them. He had just enough of the feminine love of dress to be a good judge – not of intellect, but of clothes. He saw how they set their little feet, how they carried their chins, with what grace and sinuosity they swung their bodies. A dainty, self-conscious swaying of the hips by a woman was to him as alluring as the glint of rare wine to a toper. He would turn and follow the disappearing vision with his eyes. He would thrill as a child with the unhindered passion that was in him. He loved the thing that women love in themselves, grace. At this, their own shrine, he knelt with them, an ardent devotee.”And:“She did not want anything to do with him. He was married, he had deceived her once, and now again, and she thought him terrible. Still there is something in such daring and power which is fascinating to a woman, especially if she can be made to feel that it is all prompted by love of her.”more
In Sister Carrie, Dreiser writes as an unflinching realist, and there seem to be two main thrusts to his message: first, that despite its democratic ideal, late 19th century America was still divided into classes – those that are very poor and struggling, and those that are affluent and comfortable within the “walled city”. Secondly, as Leibovitz states in this edition’s introduction, that “mankind is stranded in evolutionary limbo: too far removed from natural instinct to behaving according to its dictates, and too inchoate to govern the self according to the dictates of reason.” The result is erratic behavior, and people using one another while having pretensions to finer feelings. It’s a bleak view.After moving to Chicago to be with her sister and her brother-in-law, Carrie determines early on that the ‘hard life’ is not for her, and then resorts to using the attention of men to her advantage. The men end up making fools of themselves, in particular Hurstwoood, who goes from the suave manager at the Fitzgerald and Moy saloon to utter ruin, a portrayal that many believe is the best part of the book.That may be, but the problem I have with Sister Carrie is it’s poorly written. It’s not lyrical in the slightest and badly in need of editing; awkward prose abounds and is hard to get used to. An example, from the beginning of Chapter 17: “The, to Carrie, very important theatrical performance was to take place at the Avery on conditions which were to make it more noteworthy than was at first anticipated.” Another is this odd use of punctuation (what are the colon and the comma doing in this sentence?): “She might have been said to imagining: herself in love, when she was not.”Furthermore, Dreiser offers few pearls of wisdom, and I don’t think it took much skill to write this book. I would recommend Zola or Balzac if you want fiction of this type; they not only predate Dreiser but are better writers. And yet, I extract quotes nonetheless. :) On love:“A real flame of love is a subtle thing. It burns as a will-o’-the-wisp, dancing onward to fairy lands of delight. It roars as a furnace. Too often jealousy is the quality upon which it feeds.”On marriage going stale:“On this trip he enjoyed himself thoroughly, and when it was over he was sorry to get back. He was not willingly a prevaricator, and hated thoroughly to make explanations concerning it. The whole incident was glossed over with general remarks, but Mrs. Hurstwood gave the subject considerable thought. She drove out more, dressed better, and attended theatres freely to make up for it.Such an atmosphere could hardly come under the category of home life. It ran along by force of habit, by force of conventional opinion. With the lapse of time it must necessarily become dryer and dryer – must eventually be tinder, easily lighted and destroyed.”On pathos, this while watching a stage performance:“Hurstwood began to feel a deep sympathy for her and for himself. He could almost feel that she was talking to him. He was, by a combination of feelings and entanglements, almost deluded by the quality of voice and manner which, like a pathetic strain of music, seems ever a personal and intimate thing. Pathos has this quality, that it seems ever addressed to one alone.”On women, ok, on looking at women:“Drouet had a habit, characteristic of his kind, of looking after stylishly dressed or pretty women on the street and remarking upon them. He had just enough of the feminine love of dress to be a good judge – not of intellect, but of clothes. He saw how they set their little feet, how they carried their chins, with what grace and sinuosity they swung their bodies. A dainty, self-conscious swaying of the hips by a woman was to him as alluring as the glint of rare wine to a toper. He would turn and follow the disappearing vision with his eyes. He would thrill as a child with the unhindered passion that was in him. He loved the thing that women love in themselves, grace. At this, their own shrine, he knelt with them, an ardent devotee.”And:“She did not want anything to do with him. He was married, he had deceived her once, and now again, and she thought him terrible. Still there is something in such daring and power which is fascinating to a woman, especially if she can be made to feel that it is all prompted by love of her.”more
Theodore Dreiser's tale of rags to riches and at the same time riches to rags is definitely a worthy tale to be told, but it is saddled with some considerable drawbacks keeping it from perfection. The male protagonists talk similarly with little to distinguish them from each other, the prose is riddled with cliches, and there's enough passages that go cloud-gazing that things may appear to be more tightly handled than they otherwise would be. The piling up of details is a fun little thing, though, and the writing despite being published at the turn of the century (the 20th century) is thoroughly modern.more
Far easier to absorb than "Tess of the d'Urbervilles", but still a maddeningly slow read. Not to mention that Carrie was the first FICTIONAL character to make me SHOUT at the book since Phillip in "Of Human Bondage", and that's saying something. If they were real, Carrie and Phillip should have married each other. They both had precisely the same amount of brains and moral stamina...oh wait! They didn't have any brains and moral stamina! They were both pretty pitiful.more
Far easier to absorb than "Tess of the d'Urbervilles", but still a maddeningly slow read. Not to mention that Carrie was the first FICTIONAL character to make me SHOUT at the book since Phillip in "Of Human Bondage", and that's saying something. If they were real, Carrie and Phillip should have married each other. They both had precisely the same amount of brains and moral stamina...oh wait! They didn't have any brains and moral stamina! They were both pretty pitiful.more
824 Sister Carrie, by Theodore Dreiser (read 18 Oct 1965) I saw the 1952 movie based on this book, starring Jennifer Jones, on Sept 17, 1952, and confess I remember the movie better than I do the reading of this book. But I do recall that I liked the book, and in my mind it is the best Dreiser novel I have read.more
824 Sister Carrie, by Theodore Dreiser (read 18 Oct 1965) I saw the 1952 movie based on this book, starring Jennifer Jones, on Sept 17, 1952, and confess I remember the movie better than I do the reading of this book. But I do recall that I liked the book, and in my mind it is the best Dreiser novel I have read.more
Read by my main character, Gracie Antes in my novel, Crestmont.Carrie turned out not to be the role model Gracie had hoped for.more
Read by my main character, Gracie Antes in my novel, Crestmont.Carrie turned out not to be the role model Gracie had hoped for.more
At the turn of the century, a country girl leaves home for the big city. At a time when the only choice for women was to marry well, Carrie shows us a different road. While her rabid ambition and vanity indicate her true nature, the society in which she navigates is harsh and unforgiving. Dreiser's portrait of the ugliness of human nature is stunning.more
At the turn of the century, a country girl leaves home for the big city. At a time when the only choice for women was to marry well, Carrie shows us a different road. While her rabid ambition and vanity indicate her true nature, the society in which she navigates is harsh and unforgiving. Dreiser's portrait of the ugliness of human nature is stunning.more
A naturalistic tour de force. A good girl is led astray, and there is a downward spiral, but not exactly as you might think. Very powerful and not the book to read if you are feeling down.more
A naturalistic tour de force. A good girl is led astray, and there is a downward spiral, but not exactly as you might think. Very powerful and not the book to read if you are feeling down.more
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted here illegally.) The CCLaP 100: In which I read for the first time a hundred so-called "classics," then write reports on whether or not they deserve the labelEssay #31: Sister Carrie (1900), by Theodore DreiserThe story in a nutshell:One of the last Victorian-style morality tales to make a big splash, Theodore Dreiser's 1900 Sister Carrie tells the story of late teen and rural Wisconsinite Caroline Meeber, who at the beginning of the novel moves to bustling post-Fire Chicago to start making a name for herself, staying at first with her sister Minnie and her dour Swedish husband over in the city's blue-collar west side. But alas, life in the pre-workers-rights Windy City is not exactly the bed of roses she thought it would be, with Carrie finding herself slaving away in dangerous sweatshops for almost no pay on the rare occasions she can find any work at all, becoming more afraid each day of turning into the hard, humorless housewife her older sister has become; so when she starts receiving gifts and attention from local middle-class playboy Charles Drouet, Carrie jumps at the chance, eventually even agreeing to live with him and accept an allowance even though Drouet is in not much of a mood to marry (one of the many "shocking" details that got this book banned when it first came out). Eventually, though, Carrie's charms become too tempting for Drouet's acquaintance George Hurstwood, a married retail manager living a comfortable existence up in Lincoln Park, who especially after watching Carrie's unexpectedly successful performance in a community play starts falling in love with her, eventually convincing her to leave Drouet on the promise that he will instead do the right thing and marry her (conveniently of course omitting the fact that he is already married and with children). Through a series of implausible plot developments, then (easy money stolen on a whim one night while drunk, flight from the law, a return of the money but subsequent social disgrace), the couple find themselves in 1890s New York, trying to resume a comfortable domestic life but with this becoming more and more difficult, due to the current recession and Hurstwood's lack of business contacts in this cold east-coast city. It's at this point that the plot essentially splits into two, as we watch Hurstwood's rather spectacular fall into destitution (the spending of his reserves, his stint as a train-conductor scab during a violent union strike, his eventual descent into homeless vagrancy), even as Carrie's fortunes improve just as dramatically, eventually leaving Hurstwood for a rising career on Broadway, the book ending with her rich and famous but still unhappy, and still unsure of what she wants out of life in the first place.The argument for it being a classic:The main reason this book should be considered a classic, argue its fans, is for the groundwork it laid for the literature that came right after it; because even though it was published right on the tail end of the Victorian Age, it in fact contains many of the seeds that would become the trademarks of Modernism a mere two decades later, things like an embrace of moral relativism and more prurient subject matter, not to mention a much more naturalistic writing style. In fact, it's no coincidence that Dreiser is considered one of the founders of the Naturalist school of literary thought (best typified anymore by European author Emile Zola, a writer Dreiser is often compared to), a movement similar to the Realism of Henry James and Edith Wharton of the same time period, in that both attempted to strip fiction of the flowery, overwritten purple prose so indicative of the Victorian Era. If not for the bold stylistic experiments of people like Dreiser, his fans argue, we would've never had the more perfected stylings of people like Henry Miller or William Faulkner just one generation later; and if not for his embrace of more modern subject matter (because let's never forget, this was one of the very first American novels to become known precisely for its sordid content and subsequent censorship), it would've never been possible for F Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway to write their truly transgressive books a mere twenty years later. The argument against:Ironically, critics of this book argue nearly the exact opposite of its fans: that despite it being written a mere two decades before the explosive birth of Modernism, it remains a badly dated relic of Victorianism, not a harbinger of things to come but a perfect example of the kind of tripe the Modernists were precisely railing against. And indeed, no matter what you think of Dreiser's appropriate place in history, it's hard to deny that his actual prose is awfully heavy-handed; despite his embrace of such modern concepts as unmarried couples "living in sin" and that some women might actually be better off as entertainment-industry floozies, the actual writing found in Sister Carrie is riddled with the exact kind of ponderous, directly-talking-to-the-audience nonsense that makes up the worst of Victorian literature, the kind of Bible-quoting finger wagging that we now cite when making fun of the genre. There's a very good reason that Dreiser was such a polarizing figure during his own lifetime, with conservative professors extolling his work and young rabble-rousers thumbing their noses at it; and that's because, critics argue, Dreiser was the last gasp of a form of the arts violently killed off during the first half of the 20th century, making him merely a minor footnote in history whether one is discussing Romanticism or Modernism. My verdict:So before anything else, let me make it clear what a delight this book was from a purely historical standpoint, and especially as a fellow Chicagoan; his description of how chaotic and exciting the Loop is on a Monday morning, for example, is so spot-on perfect that it could've literally been written yesterday, while his description of a lonely Garfield Park existing out in the middle of the wilderness, nothing around it except for a series of dirt roads and an occasional farmhouse, will be enough to make most locals' hearts flutter in nostalgic wonder. But that said, Sister Carrie may be the best example yet of one of the surprising conclusions I've discovered while writing this "CCLaP 100" essay series -- of just how relative and transitory our entire definition of "literary classic" actually is, given that the term is supposed to denote books that have a timeless quality. Because the fact of the matter is that throughout the entire first half of the 20th century, Dresier was breathlessly revered by the academic community in the same way they currently fawn over, say, John Updike, and in fact it's rare to find someone over the age of 60 these days who wasn't forced to read one of Dreiser's books back in high school or college themselves (usually An American Tragedy, his most famous). The reason, then, that in the early 2000s he is only known anymore by the most hardcore book-lovers out there is because what his critics claim is sadly but undeniably true: that although to Modernist eyes in the '50s and '60s Dreiser seemed merely stuffy and dated, to our own Postmodernist eyes his work is nearly unreadable, the exact kind of 19th-century fussy finery that 20th-century literature stamped out once and for all. It's nearly impossible in fact to read Sister Carrie anymore strictly for pleasure, with for example this book's listing at Goodreads littered with nightmarish accounts of people trying dozens of times to get through it, just to have the book disintegrate into pieces from the number of times they frustratingly threw it against the wall; like I said, although it was fascinating from a bibliophilic standpoint, and indeed did pave the way for the Modernist stories that came after it, it is in absolutely no way able to hold its own anymore as a simple tale to be enjoyed in a simple way. It's a perfect example of an argument I've been making more and more in this essay series, that the determination of whether or not a book is a "classic" is a much slippier notion than most of us realize; and that's why, although I myself personally enjoyed it, I have absolutely no hesitation in coming down on the "no" side of the classic question today. Is it a classic? Nomore
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