two words: protracted letdown
First clue it isn’t: What the guys who put An American Tragedy in the Top 100 have to say about Theodore Dreiser.
Line for line, he’s the weakest of the great American novelists,
He takes a pipe fitter’s approach to writing,
So “How! How! How!” (as Dreiser would put it) did the novel make the list? Because it’s a good story made all the more poignant that it’s based on actual events. Done well, An American Tragedy could have been half its length and twice as good, but rather than achieve complexity by withholding, Dreiser presents every point-of-view possible. To add to this lack of restraint is the god-awful prose – the stilted vernacular, the lame attempts at stream of consciousness, the poverty of imagery and subtlety, the ‘gew-gaws’, the ‘pooh-poohs’ – it is dreadful writing.
At the heart of An American Tragedy is a very sad story. Then there is what Dreiser does to it. I’ve forfeited six weeks of my reading life finishing this novel, so rather than waste another second on it…