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"The Game as It Is Played"

Essays on Theodore Dreiser


Donald Pizer

The Game as It Is Played comprises the best of Donald Pizer’s essays on Theodore Dreiser. Pizer, one of Dreiser’s principal critics over the past forty years, is especially concerned in establishing the distinctive nature and quality of Dreiser’s naturalism in many of these essays. From one of Dreiser’s earliest short stories to his acknowledged masterpiece, An American Tragedy, Pizer demonstrates that in Dreiser’s hands naturalism is not the blunt instrument it is usually assumed to be but rather a powerful tool for the rendering of a complex view of the human condition. In addition, the essays explore several of the more controversial areas of Dreiser scholarship, including his late conversion to communism, his anti-Semitism, and the text of Sister Carrie.


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I have been writing about Dreiser for almost half a century, and during that time have produced essays with varying themes and methods. To give coher- ence to a collection of these essays, I initially organized them into groupings that reflected the commonalities in a specific group. Once they were orga- nized in this fashion, I perceived that these commonalities had a base in my own shifting interests and methods over the years and that the essays could therefore be best introduced by describing that progression. Hence the roughly autobiographical account which follows. It may also be useful to comment at this point on my personal relationship to the title of this volume—or, more specifically, to the quote from Dreiser’s 1907 interview which provides the title. I have always had a visceral response to Dreiser’s reply to the interviewer’s question about what he was trying to “show” in his fiction—a response which I sense may help explain my strong interest in coming to grips with Dreiser’s mind and art over the years. Dreiser, as my essay “Dreiser and the Jews” demonstrates, was not always an admirable person, and he could also at times write ineptly. But in this early statement of his aims as a writer, he powerfully sets out a goal which he frequently does achieve and which it has been my pleasure and honor to attempt to recount. PIZER_book.indd 11 09/08/13 4:06 PM xii preface I was much interested in Theodore Dreiser during the...

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