Scribner's Magazine
Book Reviews by Eli Siegel 1931-1934

From Scribner's, March 1932

Tragic America, by Theodore Dreiser. Liveright. $2.

It is difficult censuring a man who writes all for justice and good. Yet it must be said Mr. Dreiser is not profound enough. His manifestations of pain at what is going on in America don't seem to come from such a deep place. Mr. Dreiser, in his advocacy of humanity, is too glib and at the same time splutters too much. And there is something beyond capitalism and corporations, as he sees them.

Mr. Dreiser writes of corporation presidents as if they didn't have toothache or diabetes, and didn't have sons who ran off with chorus girls. Deeply, there is a sad lack of simple humanity in "Tragic America." It deals with things too much in terms of pronunciamentos and charts. Marx, with all his frightening and splendid Tightness, left out a lot; and so does Mr. Dreiser. This may sound inhuman and reactionary, but matters are much more complicated, stranger and deeper than either of them sees.

And, moreover, Mr. Dreiser (with all discounts for energy made) is just plain sloppy in his last book. His writing impedes the reader, and impeding a reader may impede justice. He writes some of the most god-awful sentences I ever saw in anything printed and bound.

So with all goodness of heart, and all love of social justice, I must say there is that to distrust and condemn in "Tragic America." I am sorry I have to say that with all its ardor and great purpose, there is in it the tinny, the muggy, the unfair and the incomplete.

Eli Siegel.

Reviews by Eli Siegel from Scribner's Magazines 1931-1934. Copyright 1931, 1932, 1933, 1934 Charles Scribner's Sons; copyrights renewed. Reprinted with the permission of Charles Scribner's Sons.

More Scribner's Reviews by Eli Siegel

arrowA Calendar of Sin by Evelyn Scott
arrowMark Twain's America by Bernard DeVoto
arrowTragic America by Theodore Dreiser
arrowThe Road Leads On by Knut Hamsun
arrowEva Gay by Evelyn Scott
arrowThe Life of Emerson by Van Wyck Brooks
arrowAdventures in Genius by Will Durant
arrowAnn Vickers by Sinclair Lewis
arrowBreathe Upon These Slain by Evelyn Scott
arrowThe Sheltered Life by Ellen Glasgow
arrowEimi by E.E. Cummings
arrowJohn Dryden by T.S. Eliot

arrowSelected Essays: 1917-1932 by T.S. Eliot
arrowThe First Wife
and Other Stories by Pearl S. Buck
arrowThe Sibyl of the North: The Tale of Christina, Queen of Sweden
by Faith Compton Mackenzie
arrowThe Soul of America by Arthur Hobson Quinn
arrowThree Cities: A Trilogy by Sholom Asch
arrowEdmund Kean by Harold Newcomb Hillebrand
arrowWilliam Carlos Williams: Collected Poems, 1921-1931
arrowA Cultural History of the Modern Age by Egon Friedell, Vol. II
arrowThe Proud and the Meek (Men of Good Will, Part II) by Jules Romains
arrowThe Proud and the Meek (Men of Good Will, vol. III) by Jules Romains


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