Dusk--of a summer night.
And the tall walls of the commercial heart of an American city of perhaps 400,000 inhabitants--such walls as in time may linger as a mere fable.
And up the broad street, now comparably hushed, a little band of six,--a man of about fifty, short, stout, with bushy hair protruding from under a black felt hat, a mostly unimportant-looking person, who carried a small portable organ such as is customarily used by street preachers and singers. And with him a woman perhaps five years his junior, taller, not so broad, but solid of frame and vigorous, very plain in face and dress, and yet not homely, leading with one hand a small boy of seven and in the other carrying a Bible and several hymn books. With these three, but walking independently behind, was a girl of fifteen, a boy of twelve and another girl of nine, all following obediently, but not too enthusiastically, in the wake of the others.An AmericanTragedy
by Theodore Dreiser
The most recent Classics Club Spin has dealt me An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser, a book I have wanted to read for decades. Published in 1925 and based on an actual (and fairly local) 1910 murder, this 800+ page novel is both a character study and portrait of early 20th century life. Here's the goodreads summary:
A tremendous bestseller when it was published in 1925, "An American Tragedy" is the culmination of Theodore Dreiser's elementally powerful fictional art. Taking as his point of departure a notorious murder case of 1910, Dreiser immersed himself in the social background of the crime to produce a book that is both a remarkable work of reportage and a monumental study of character. Few novels have undertaken to track so relentlessly the process by which an ordinary young man becomes capable of committing a ruthless murder, and the further process by which social and political forces come into play after his arrest.As with many classics this length, I'll approach An American Tragedy as a read/listen combination. The ebook has been downloaded to my kindle and I've used an audible credit for the 34-hour audiobook narrated by Dan John Miller. The first couple of chapters, like the opening paragraphs, are very descriptive. I have high hopes for the story and think I can manage the October 6 deadline.
In Clyde Griffiths, the impoverished, restless offspring of a family of street preachers, Dreiser created an unforgettable portrait of a man whose circumstances and dreams of self-betterment conspire to pull him toward an act of unforgivable violence. Around Clyde, Dreiser builds an extraordinarily detailed fictional portrait of early twentieth-century America, its religious and sexual hypocrisies, its economic pressures, its political corruption. The sheer prophetic amplitude of his bitter truth-telling, in idiosyncratic prose of uncanny expressive power, continues to mark Dreiser as a crucially important American writer. "An American Tragedy," the great achievement of his later years, is a work of mythic force, at once brutal and heartbreaking.
What do you think? Would you keep reading?
Every Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea posts the opening paragraph (sometime two) of a book she decided to read based on the opening. Feel free to grab the banner and play along.