The Last Titan: A Life of Theodore Dreiser

The Last Titan: A Life of Theodore Dreiser

The Last Titan: A Life of Theodore Dreiser

The Last Titan: A Life of Theodore Dreiser

Synopsis

When Theodore Dreiser first published Sister Carrie in 1900 it was suppressed for its seamy plot, colloquial language, and immorality--for, as one reviewer put it, its depiction of "the godless side of American life." It was a side of life experienced firsthand by Dreiser, whose own circumstances often paralleled those of his characters in the turbulent, turn-of-the-century era of immigrants, black lynchings, ruthless industrialists, violent labor movements, and the New Woman. This masterful critical biography, the first on Dreiser in more than half a century, is the only study to fully weave Dreiser's literary achievement into the context of his life. Jerome Loving gives us a Dreiser for a new generation in a brilliant evocation of a writer who boldly swept away Victorian timidity to open the twentieth century in American literature.

Dreiser was a controversial figure in his time, not only because of his literary efforts, which included publication of the brutal and heartbreaking An American Tragedy in 1925, but also because of his personal life, which featured numerous sexual liaisons, included membership in the communist party, merited a 180-page FBI file, and ended in Hollywood. The Last Titan paints a full portrait of the mature Dreiser between the two world wars--through the roaring twenties, the stock market crash, and the Depression--and describes his contact with important figures from Emma Goldman and H.L. Mencken to two presidents Roosevelt. Tracing Dreiser's literary roots in Hawthorne, Emerson, Thoreau, and especially Whitman, Loving has written what will surely become the standard biography of one of America's best novelists.

Excerpt

In the winter of 1903, a tall, slightly undernourished man in his early thirties, whose glasses added to the look of someone unfit for manual labor, approached the car barn of Philadelphia’s streetcar company at Eighth and Dauphin to apply for a position as a conductor. Finding its offices closed for the day, he proceeded north to Reading Terminal on Market Street. in threadbare clothes and down to his last fifty cents, Theodore Dreiser also possessed two streetcar tickets for travel between downtown and the suburb of Wissahickon, where he lived in a rooming house he could no longer afford. Nothing had seemed to go right for him since the commercial failure of his first novel, Sister Carrie, published a little more than two years earlier. At that moment his situation resembled that of his most famous fictional creation, George Hurstwood, who ultimately commits suicide in a Bowery flophouse. Indeed, although Dreiser at last received payment for some magazine articles he had written and was able to return to New York the next month, he almost followed Hurstwood to an early grave. Instead, at the brink of despair, chance encounters with his brother and a canal boatman pushed him onto the path of mental and physical recovery. Dreiser lived to write a second literary masterpiece as well as a body of fiction that remains securely placed in the American literary canon.

Most celebrated for Sister Carrie (1900) and An American Tragedy (1925), Dreiser was the last big voice to come out of the American nineteenth cen-

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.