A review, kind of

Soon I’ll do my second renewal of American Tragedy by Dreiser. At my library system you check books out for 3 weeks and then can renew it up to 3 times. So for Dreiser’s classic I’ve had it for nearly 6 weeks. This is a much longer time span than most books I check out. I was interrupted three times to read shorter books for book clubs. I’m still plugging away chapter by chapter and I have read 300 pages out of 900. It is not difficult prose but the way he prolongs description and scenes make it dry in some ways. However I feel compelled to continue reading this novel. I’m reading it slowly and will probably use all three renewals for it.

Since I’m drinking a Heineken and waiting for my Dominos pizza to cool down I’ll write about my thoughts of reading and why I and people read what they do. At a work in-service in later 2004 or early 2005, the speaker suggested keeping a book log. She emphasized to keep it simple with just the book, author and when you read it. Since 2005 I’ve kept a book log like a religion. I like it so I can remember what I read, and looking over a full year is neat. Goodreads is okay for a total log, but a log on a notebook page has more nostalgia. Overall keeping a book log has improved my reading habits consistency greatly, but I now feel the need to finish every book I start. That is better than leaving all books left half read, but can feel frustrating when I’m not into a book. Such as now, I read 300 pages of American Tragedy so I have to read the rest so I can write it down in my book log. I only write down books I finished, and I number the books starting from January to December….I just picked up my book log and in 2005 I read 21 books, in 2006 I read 27 books, in 2007 I read 24 books, in 2008 I read 38 books, in 2009 I read 29 books, and so for in 2010 I’ve read 17 books. A lot of people read more, but I read some whoppers. I suggest everyone keeps a book log because you do think some about your reading habits that way.

I ate some pizza and chicken wings, watched some of the Extremely Sorry skate DVD, had a few beers and I am now ready to go into intricate detail about reading habits. I think people read for entertainment, information, stories, education, and I’m sure other reasons. People take there reading personally. There are elitists who think books need to uphold a certain literary standard, there are genre readers that read a ton of books with similar formulas, there are newspaper readers, and people that read only biographies. The range of readers is huge, but there is a particular trait among readers that their tastes are infinitely better than people that read other stuff. As a librarian I think all reading needs to be promoted, and reading anything is better than reading nothing. That said I have certain expectations of the books I read.

I think reading is personal and people react to the same book differently. From the book clubs I’ve conducted it’s amazing the various interpretations that a group comes up with from the same book. So choices are personal, and people do strongly like and dislike books. For me now that I feel compelled to finish every book I read, I’ve noticed that a lot of times it takes my awhile to like a book, but by the end of each book I like most of them.

The first few chapters of American Tragedy I felt it rigid and too puritanical. It describes a family of those street preachers, so I thought it would focus too much on religion. The story seemed completely lacking in humor and just kind of stiff. As the plot progressed I compared it to Of Human Bondage by Maugham with the sinister love interest. Maugham’s book had an effect on me, because of that evil love interest. However American Tragedy gets past that evil woman when the main character leaves the Midwest.  Now he is on the east coast and pursuing another woman. But the main character is acting inappropriate to the town’s standards. So in Of Human Bondage the male main character is the victim and it takes up a large portion of the story. In American Tragedy he was taken in one instance but is the aggressor in another instance. And I still have two thirds of the book to go. So maybe these two books have not much in common other than coming of age stores for men. But since I read one, I couldn’t help comparing the two as I’m reading. Now that I’m farther along there are differences. In Maugham’s book the main character is hyper educated in art, with tons of literary and art references. In Dreiser’s book the main character is uneducated, so there are no academic references at all. Another difference is that Maugham was European and Dreiser was American. But enough of talking of these two books because I didn’t bother to look up if people compared them and I only did so because Maugham’s book had such an impression on me. Both books have stood the test of time, and I’m sure both have merits.

Lastly I’ll talk about the word ‘American’ in the title of this book. The main character, Clyde, comes from humble origins but expires for more in life. Quickly in the book he separates himself from his family to be independent working as a bell hop in a fancy hotel. He gets into trouble with his new found impulses and flees Kansas City and his family. He does okay in Chicago but meets a rich uncle that owns a factory out east. The uncle gives him a chance and he moves out.  Currently I’m at the point where he dates a woman in the factory even after warnings not to in the conservative town. The novel so far brings up a lot of religious, social, money,  and ethical issues. So this interests me, maybe not as much as The Jungle by Upton Sinclaire did, but I’ll finish it. The word Tragedy in the title makes me think that it will not be a happy ending.

Pandora, the internet music radio thing, made this blog possible.

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