Sherwood Anderson, commenting on Dreiser's short stories, said that "if there is a modern movement in American prose writing, a movement toward greater courage and fidelity to life, then Theodore Dreiser is the pioneer and the hero of that movement." For this collection, noted Dreiser scholar T. D. Nostwich has chosen the thirteen tales that he considers Dreiser's best. If a common theme unites these stories, says Nostwich, it is that "all the characters share an intense hunger for life and for the fulfilment of the promises, however humble, that life seems to hold out."
Seems is the telling word here, for in the fiction of Dreiser, "promises are in most cases mere illusions, circumstances are greater than personalities, and the impotence of human wishes is the tragedy of everyday life." These stories were originally published between 1918 and 1934. Twelve are drawn from Dreiser's collections Free (1918), Twelve Men (1919), Chains (1927), and A Gallery of Women (1929). The remaining story, "Mathewson," was published in Esquire in 1934 and is reprinted here for the first time. All have been scrupulously edited by Professor Nostwich, and some are supplemented by previously unpublished passages drawn from the original typescripts in the Dreiser Collection of the University of Pennsylvania.
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Now known primarily for lengthy psychological novels like Sister Carrie , Dreiser began his career as a journalist and only later turned to short stories. The two genres have been combined here with the presentation of seven works of "semifiction," sketches of living people, and six short stories, all long out of print. Dreiser's grasp of character is masterful, but his verbose style and attention to atmosphere tend to date the stories; they seem more period pieces than modern short fiction. Detailed notes and fragments of previously unpublished text are included. Primarily for scholarly collections.
- Shelley Cox, Southern Illinois Univ. Lib., Carbondale
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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