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Dreiser RevealedandRestored Theodore Dreiser. The American £:ia~·ies }902-1926. Edited byThomas P. R1gg10, James L.W.West,III, Neda M. Westlake. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1982. 471+ xipp. Theodore Dreiser. Sister Carrie.Edited by John C.Berkey,James L. W.West, III, Neda M.Westlake,Alice M.Winters. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1981. 6"'9 +xiPP· Yoshinobu Hakutani. Young Dreiser: .4Critical Study. Rutherford, NJ.: Fairleigh Dickinson UniversityPress, 1980.228pp. Joseph Griffin Yoshinobu Hakutani's Young Dreiser: A Critical Study and Dreiser's AmericanDiaries 1902-1926in one way or another cover substantial portions of thefirsttwo-thirds of their subject's life: Young Dreiser takes the reader up to the turn of the century and Sister Carrie; in the American Diaries, Dreiserfurnishes the record of his days from the time of his down period afterthe Sister Carrie publication fiasco to (with the exception of a large gapbetween 1903 and 1916) 1926, a year after An American Tragedy appeared . Sister Carrie came at the mid-point in this extended period of Dreiser'slife, on the one hand the result of some twenty-five years of experience ,reading and thinking, on the other hand the partial cause, because ofthe unfortunate circumstances surrounding its publication, of his taking up the writing of a personal diary. The new University of Pennsylvania Pressedition of Sister Carrie reminds us of the central place of Dreiser's 1900 novel,whose high critical reputation is a major reason for the continued interestin Dreiser, evidenced by such books as the Hakutani study and the publicationof Diaries. YoungDreiser has as its purpose "to elucidate the personal experiences ofDreiser's youth, his newspaper work, and his career as an editor and as afree-lancemagazine writer" and "to demonstrate the significance of these experiencesand concepts in molding Dreiser's earliest short stories and his firstnovel, Sister Carrie" (p. 9). Hakutani is attempting to counter the thesis Canadian Review of American Studies, Volume 15, Number 3, Fall 1984, 349-359 350 JosephGnffin that Dreiser's earliest fiction was the result of his knowledge of the French naturalistic fiction writers Zola and Balzac and of the English evolutionists Darwin and Spencer, by establishing the fact that Dreiser came uponhisideas independently, merely finding confirmation of what he had already accepted in the work of the naturalistic fictionists and scientific determinists. Thebook's first two chapters, "American Literary Naturalism'' and "French Naturalists,, set up a rationale, making the point that "only the most facile critic could attribute the distinguishing characteristics of [Dreiser's] writing to theFrench naturalists," that to Dreiser, "literary influences were hardly a conscious process" and that "his process of creating fiction was not slow or cold''but "passionate and emotional. .. and intimately tied to his own life"(p.39). For his discussion of Dreiser's lifeup to the time of his newspaper career. Hakutani draws mainly on Dawn, Dreiser's account of his Indiana youth, produced when he was almost sixty years old. Hakutani demonstrates the impact of Dreiser's family relationships, early sex experience, formaleducation and reading on the development of his thought as well as on the fabric of his fiction. Dreiser incorporated "patterns of family experience" (p.44) into some of his novels; for example, his sister Emma's running off withW.A. Hopkins, a Chicago tavern clerk who had stolen cash from the safe,wasused as a basis for Sister Carrie.But the most important aspect of Dreiser's youth, for Hakutani, is the shift in the young reader away from classical and con· temporary romantic material to modern literature and philosophy. Bythe time he had enrolled at the University of Indiana at age 18,Dreiserwas reading Spencer and Nietzsche and discussing Darwin's theories withhis friends, according to Dawn. Again, in his discussion of Dreiser as a newspaperman in Chicago, St. Louis, Pittsburgh and New York, Hakutani relies on an autobiographical source, this time on the retrospective account of Dreiser's career asajournal· ist, A Book about Myself. Here Hakutani's thesis is further demonstrated with reference to Dreiser's recollections of personal (and impersonal) con· tacts, observed experiences, reading and writing during the late eightiesand the first half of the nineties. Under the influence of newspapermen...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-114X
Print ISSN
0007-7720
Pages
pp. 349-359
Launched on MUSE
2019-01-02
Open Access
No
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