Sunday, March 7, 2021

he could not correct his relation to the universe

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Above Roy R. Behrens, Hat Trick (© 2021). Digital montage.


E.L. Doctorow (remembering Theodore Dreiser), interviewed in George Plimpton, ed., Writers at Work: Eighth Series (New York: Viking, 1988), p. 30—

Dreiser wrote this magnificent novel [Sister Carrie]. It was published in 1900; it was then and still is the best first novel ever written by an American. It’s an amazing work...The book was a magnificent achievement but the publisher, Doubleday, didn’t like it, they were afraid of it. So they buried it. And naturally it did nothing; I think it sold four copies. I would go crazy too in that situation. Dreiser rented a furnished room in Brooklyn. He put a chair in the middle of this room and sat in it. The chair didn't seem to be in the right position so he turned it a few degrees, and he sat in it again. Still it was not right. He kept turning the chair around and around, trying to align it to what—trying to correct his own relation to the universe? He never could do it, so he kept going around in circles and circles. He did that for quite a while, and ended up in a sanitarium in Westchester, in White Plains.