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A Hazard of New Fortunes (Penguin Classics)

4.2 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0140439236
ISBN-10: 0140439234
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Editorial Reviews


"No one before Howells had thought to capture the teeming, heterogeneous, multifarious, high-tension city on a single great canvas. Against the variegated backdrop of New York City, Howells dramatizes the intellectual and spiritual conflicts of the democratic future." Arthur Schlesinger Jr.

"The exactest and truest portrayal of New York and New York life ever written." Mark Twain

"Simply prodigious."Henry James

From the Inside Flap

Centering on a conflict between a self-made millionaire and an idealistic reformer in turn-of-the-twentieth-century New York, A Hazard of New Fortunes insightfully renders the complexities of the American experience at a time of great social and economic upheaval and transformation. In its depiction of wealth, poverty, and New York City life, it remains a strikingly contemporary work.
Reproduced here is the authoritative Indiana University Press Edition edited and annotated by David J. Nordloh, with full scholarly commentary and extensive textual apparatus. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (December 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140439234
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140439236
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #573,611 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
William Dean Howells in his lifetime was ranked with his friend,Henry James as a writer of a new realistic kind of fiction,and however mild and idealistic it seems today,was considered by its admirers as refreshingly revolutionary and by others as cynical meanspiritedness seeking to sacrifice all that was "noble" in art.While actually having little in common with James, (he seems to be closer in spirit to Trollope)Howells' name was always side by side with James' and it was probably supposed that their future reputations would share a similiar fate. Unfortunately,that was not the case-while Henry James is considered a giant of American belles lettres,Howells has been relegated to minor status and except by a happy few,little read."A Hazard of New Fortunes",possibly Howell's best work,is one of the better known-but most people aren't aware that it is one of the greatest works of fiction in American literature.It is an impressive panorama of American life towards the end of the last century.People from Boston,the west,the south and Europe all converge in New York to enact a comedy of manners or tragedy,depending on their fortunes,that compares in its scope and masterly dissection of society, with"The Way We Live Now".Howell's light irony touches upon the eternal divisions between the haves and the have-nots,male and female,the socially secure and the unclassed,and with the Marches,the book's ostensible heroes,uses a typical normal middleclass family-with all of its intelligence,understanding,decency on one side and with all of its pretensions,timidity,selfishness on the other-to reflect the social unease and lack of justice in a supposedly sane and fair world.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
Howells' "Hazard" is an extremely evocative novel of New York in the 1880s. Unlike the more famous works of Edith Wharton, Howells' characters carefully reflect the full spectrum of American society of the day. The character of Fulkerson is one of the earliest instances of that American institution, the born salesman. And the other archetypes are there as well: the fallen Southern beauty and her gracious father, the German immigrant socialist, the farmer-cum-robber baron and grasping family, the society girl who turns to settlement house work. I have yet to find a novel that gives a more comprehensive snapshot of the era.
Also of interest to any Atlantic readers like myself, Howells served as that monthly's editor for some twenty years. The book's office scenes are heavily based on the experience. It provides a very interesting bit of journalistic history.
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Format: Paperback
A usual book review outlines something of the plot, not enough to give everything away, but at least something to catch a potential reader's fancy. I cannot assure you that this book has much of plot---some men come together to run a new bi-weekly magazine in New York in the 1880s, their financial backer has hickish, conservative tendencies and he opposes a certain impoverished writer who supports socialism (then a wild-eyed fantasy. This rich man's son, who abhors any form of business, is made into the managing editor. A crisis develops, takes a sudden unexpected turn, and the men buy out the backer, who leaves for Europe. Most novels have a main character whose moods and motivations are central to the work. Not A HAZARD OF NEW FORTUNES. Several people figure almost equally in this respect, none of them women, but women are developed more than in most male-authored novels of the time, even including a sympathetic view of a very independent female character. Basil March might be taken for the main character, but that would be mostly because he is introduced first. He is abandoned for long stretches while we follow the lives and personalities of others.
Yet, I must say, I admired Howells' novel very much. It is not for those who require action, sex, or dramatic events. Rather, it is a slice of life of the period, of the place, of family life and social repartee that may be unequalled. Though Howells claimed to be a "realist" and he is often spoken of, it seems, as one of such a school in American literature, the novel oscillates between extremely vivid descriptions of all varieties of life in New York, humanist philosophizing, and mild melodrama, thus, I would not class it as a truly realist novel in the same sense as say, "McTeague" by Frank Norris.
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Format: Paperback
W.D. Howells used to be the editor of Harper's magazine in an era when the world was undergoing dramatic change all around. Mr. Howells manages to capture in a kaleidascopic fashion the world of New York from the varied perspectives of the staff of a fictional magazine in New York.
It might take some readers some time in getting used to the language of the book. But it's worth it. If you're a sucker for a fast-moving plot, don't bother. I enjoyed this story for its marvellous descriptions of New York City, its acute observations about people and its ability to capture a society undergoing a lot of change. It's a book that provides a snapshot of a certain era. It's especially fascinating to read about this topic given what's happening now, at the turn of another century and all the other changes that are coming with it. While we're going through the Information Revolution, they went through the Industrial Revolution. I often think about what an apt title this would be for a sequal, "A Hazard of New Fortunes II," more than 100 years later. Only this time the story would be told from the perspectives of an editor, publisher, Web production people etc of a venture-funded Web site. Perhaps Kurt Andersen has already done this with "Turn of the Century." I haven't read it yet.
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