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Next Up: An American Tragedy

Settle in, friends. This could be a long one.

Outside of Infinite Jest and Gone With The Wind, An American Tragedy will be the longest novel I’ve read to this point.

It’s a beast at a little more than 900 pages.

An American Tragedy is based on a true story—the notorious Chester Gillette murder case in New York in 1906. The book follows Clyde Griffiths, the poor son of a street preacher, as he aspires to move out of poverty and make a name for himself—riding on the tails of his rich uncle. But he gets in over his head when he falls in love with a rich, society girl.

A little more about the book and its author, Theodore Dreiser:

  • Published in 1925, An American Tragedy is based on the Chester Gillette murder case and subsequent trial in 1906.
  • Several film versions of the novel have appeared on the big screen, the most recent being A Place In The Sun in 1951.
  • A Place In The Sun won 6 Academy Awards and starred Elizabeth Taylor, Shelley Winters, and Raymond Burr.
  • An American Tragedy was the basis for an opera composed by Tobias Picker at the Metropolitan Opera in New York in 2005.
  • Literary critic Irving Howe called Dreiser “one of the very few American giants we have had.”
  • About Dreiser, H.L. Mencken said, “All of us who writer are better off because he lived, worked, and hoped.”
  • Dreiser passed away in 1945 at the age of 74.

What did Time say? “Clyde Griffiths is a young man with ambitions. He’s in love with a rich girl, but it’s a poor girl he has gotten pregnant, Roberta Alden, who works with him at his uncle’s factory. One day he takes Roberta canoeing on a lake with the intention of killing her. From there his fate is sealed. But by then Dreiser has made plain that Clyde’s fate was long before sealed by a brutal and cynical society.”

Having already started this book, I’ll say that Dreiser has a very mechanical style of writing. But his story has already drawn me in.

Any thoughts on An American Tragedy?

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12 Comments Post a comment
  1. The longest book I have ever read was “A Suitable Boy” by Vikram Seth. It is nearly 1500 pages long. I started it 3 times over the course of 5 years, but always got distracted by another novel 30 pages in. I finally finished it when I newly moved to Switzerland and had no computer or TV in the first month to distract me.

    Like

    June 13, 2012
    • I struggled with this one as well – kept losing track of who all the characters were

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      June 13, 2012
  2. I like to start these long ones in the middle and then decide from there.

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    June 13, 2012
  3. I don’t remember much about Dreiser’s style, but the plot is very well developed. I really enjoyed the book, and despite its length, I thought it went quickly. It’s a great comment on class consciousness in America, despite the myth of American equality, and the importance to many individuals of the need to climb to that “place in the sun.”

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    June 13, 2012
    • Yes, just from what I’ve read, the story has really pulled me in early. Seems to be going quickly.

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      June 13, 2012
  4. Read this when I was in grade 13–from what I remember, I liked it but was disturbed by it–think I was very naive back in 1972

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    June 13, 2012
  5. I’ve had this book for years and never got around to reading it. When I’d try it, the mechanical style you mentioned would pop right out and didn’t inspire me enough to plow through it. I will give it another shot!

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    June 13, 2012
  6. Wow! I also intend to read this on July. I will try my best to catch up on your reading and hopefully exchange thoughts and reactions.

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    June 13, 2012
  7. Haven’t read it, but it sounds so good. Good luck with it.

    Like

    June 14, 2012
  8. Up to now i haven’t read this book, but will set it to my wish list for birthday or x-mas.
    Good luck in reading this book

    Like

    June 14, 2012

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. The Case of Chester Gillette: The Real American Tragedy | 101 Books

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