Dawn: The Autobiography of Early Youth

Dawn: The Autobiography of Early Youth

by Theodore Dreiser
     
 
In his realistic depiction of the thwarted aspirations and unfulfilled hungers of the turn-of-the-century American underclass, Theodore Dreiser was our Balzac, a socially-conscious writer far ahead of his time. Dawn, the journalist-turned-novelist's brutally candid autobiography of his first nineteen years (1871-1890), was composed between 1912 and 1915, but withheld

Overview

In his realistic depiction of the thwarted aspirations and unfulfilled hungers of the turn-of-the-century American underclass, Theodore Dreiser was our Balzac, a socially-conscious writer far ahead of his time. Dawn, the journalist-turned-novelist's brutally candid autobiography of his first nineteen years (1871-1890), was composed between 1912 and 1915, but withheld by Dreiser due to his misgivings about the potential impact of its frank revelations, daring even by today's standards, of adolescent sexuality. Encouraged by his preeminence in American letters at the time and by the more relaxed moral codes, he finally published it in 1931.

Critics immediately recognized the book as an American classic, comparing it to Rousseau's Confessions and The Education of Henry Adams. "Dawn is a story of growth", the New York Evening Post noted, "of the persistent spiritual and physical vitality of a man conquering despite all the accidents of economics and of personal 'chemistry' which tended to retard him".

The new Black Sparrow edition, complete with notes, index and appendices, makes available to the modern reader Dreiser's powerful and unforgettable account of a difficult childhood spent struggling to rise out of impoverished and sordid surroundings. It is a gripping tale indeed: the writer's father, a German immigrant traumatized by failure in his adopted land, dwindles to an embittered bigot. The large family is scattered around the Midwest. In Chicago, young Theodore washes dishes in a greasy spoon, cleans stoves in a rundown hardware store, counts freight cars in a railroad yard. An episode of petty crime teaches him a lesson about attempting to live beyond his means. Skeptical andpragmatic, he's nonetheless prey to continual hothouse dreams of frustrated romance as he pursues back-alley sexual adventures. Through all his experiences and hard times it is fascinating to watch the foundation of Dreiser's vivid artistic vision gradually being formed.

Editorial Reviews

Jennifer Sperry
...written with tremendous frankness and introspection.... Because of its considerable length and tendency to meander about sometimes in circles, this work requires the luxury of time, and is not recommended for those seeking a quick history lesson. For history or literary scholars, however, along with those who enjoy long quiet walks and those seekers of great American autobiographies, Dawn will ignite flames.
ForeWord Magazine
Booknews
Reprints the 1931 Liveright edition without change except for the correction of a few misprints and misspellings. This section of what was envisioned as a multi-volume autobiography (only the first two volumes were completed) covers Dreiser's life up to his departure for St. Louis to work as a reporter for the Globe-Democrat. Reviewers of the original remarked that Dreiser had out-Rousseaued Rousseau in terms of frank personal revelations and his unblinking treatment of sex. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781574230734
Publisher:
Godine, David R. Publishers, Inc.
Publication date:
09/28/1998
Pages:
616
Product dimensions:
5.92(w) x 9.04(h) x 1.75(d)

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