"A Strangely Strong Novel
in a Queer Milieu"
Rare Book & Manuscript Library
University of Pennsylvania
Reproduction of pencil sketch of Theodore Dreiser
In 1907 Dreiser accepted an offer to direct the publication of The Designer, The New Idea Woman's Magazine, and The Delineator, all issued primarily to promote Butterick dress patterns. This was the same year that a new publishing firm, B. W. Dodge, reissued Sister Carrie, and once more the American critics took it to task. On the third of July the New York Press reviewer was "shocked by one element in this novel and that was the fashion of the writer's English. We cannot recall such vulgar forms of expression in any book we have ever read. . . . These solecisms are so strangely out of touch with everyday speech that they give the book a character that can be described only as naive."
To which Dreiser responded:The critics have not really understood what I was trying to do. Here is a book that is close to life. It is intended, not as a piece of literary craftsmanship, but as a picture of conditions done as simply and effectively as the English language will permit. To . . . criticise me for saying "vest" instead of "waistcoat"; to talk about splitting the infinitive and using vulgar commonplaces here and there, when the tragedy of a man's life is being displayed, is silly. More, it is ridiculous. It makes me feel that American criticism is the joke which English literary authorities maintain it to be.
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