Thursday, November 7, 2013

Book 46-American Tragedy

I read American Tragedy which is the 46th book on the list while on my honeymoon. The majority of it was read on both the plane ride to, and the plane ride from Italy. I enjoyed parts of the book, but found the middle part a bit of a slog.

One of the most notable things about the book, for me was that I was constantly reminded of The Great Gatsby. The movie was constantly being watched by passengers around me on the plane and various scenes bore striking resemblances to the book. The most prominent one starts in book one where the main character, Clyde Griffiths is involved in a car accident that kills a child. This reminds me of the scene where Daisy kills someone while driving another's car.

The other similarity is the message in both novels. This is that the American Dream becomes and all consuming reality for people which destroys them. Clyde Griffiths is the most unlike-able character I have ever met in a novel. I had no sympathy for him, found him to be arrogant and could not grasp why he was so heartless. I felt the same way about The Great Gatsby. No so much about any specific character in that novel, just the general mood of it. I found both  novels dark, but not necessarily in a redeeming way.  I disliked the general vibe of this novel almost the entire time, but felt better at the end when Clyde struggled to understand what it was he had done wrong.

Clyde's heartless pursuit of wealth at the expense of others and his love for wealthy attractive women are things that I can't understand fully being someone who has always worked for substandard wages so that I can pursue jobs that make me come alive. His blind devotion to first Hortense and then Sondra do not endear him to ones heart either.

It is interesting to note that this book did not make the cut on the list of 1001 books. For what ever reason Daniel S. Burt included it in his list. Granted if given the choice I would prefer American Tragedy over The Great Gatsby  any day although you really can't pass up on the brilliant beginning and end of the Gatsby.

There were a few quotes I enjoyed in this book, most of them from his time in prison at the end of the  novel:

"life-life- how was one to do without that- the beauty of days-the sun and rain- of work, love, energy, desire"

And the last quote won me over to Clyde's side at last, I had been despising him and hating him up until he utters this line, "would no one ever understand- or give him credit for his human-if all too human and perhaps wrong hungers". I was thoroughly chastened by that line because of my vilifying Clyde for an error that I didn't share. I am not better than Clyde because I fall in different places.

Overall I would say it was an interesting read, but not one that will rise to the top of my charts any time soon.

1 comment:

Joseph said...

I had a very different reaction to fact I liked him, though I felt he was his own worst enemy, and I wanted to correct him from his misguided ambition. And then of course, his complete failure to man-up, and take responsibility for Roberta was infuriating, but yet I felt Dreiser did a masterful job of making me empathize with Clyde.

It didn't remind me of The Great Gatsby at all, but it did remind me of American Pastoral.

My review: