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Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer (Vintage Contemporaries) Kindle Edition
|Length: 306 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
- Publication Date : September 1, 2010
- File Size : 1438 KB
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print Length : 306 pages
- Publisher : Vintage; Reprint Edition (September 1, 2010)
- ASIN : B004089I6A
- Language: : English
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Enhanced Typesetting : Enabled
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #184,030 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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This is a peculiar sort of historical novel, set in a time and place shorn of history. It’s a story anchored on an unfamiliar plane of existence, as though set in Gilded Age New York in a parallel universe. And the eponymous Martin Dressler himself, the dreamer of the subtitle, is a fantasy figure as surely as Horatio Alger, the template for his character. Some of his business ideas are patently absurd. And he marries a severely neurotic woman so obviously unsuited to be his wife—unsuited to be anyone’s wife—that his own sanity seems suspect.
At first, it’s a conventional rags-to-riches tale
In the early chapters of Martin Dressler, you’ll get the impression that this is a conventional rags-to-riches tale. Martin is born poor half a dozen years after the end of the Civil War. His father, an immigrant from Germany like so many others in that era, owns a small cigar and tobacco store that he keeps alive only through endless hours of work and the aid of his young son.
Soon, this Pulitzer winner goes off the rails
Martin’s break comes when he is fourteen and is hired as a bellboy at a nearby hotel. There, over the ensuing years, he gains increasing authority, first as a desk clerk and later as assistant to the manager. Along the way he begins building his first business—a cigar stand in the hotel’s lobby. Soon, he opens a nearby lunchroom and billiard parlor, which leads to a second, and a third one, and eventually a chain. So far, so good. But then the story begins sliding off the rails. No longer is Martin anchored in reality: his business plans become wilder and wilder, and his personal life leaves the bounds of reason as well.
Gilded Age New York was nothing like its portrayal in this novel
There’s little hint of New York City as it really was during the 1870s through the 1900s. That was a tumultuous period in the city’s history, with millions of immigrants streaming in from Europe and building their own New World. It was a time when each neighborhood took on a unique ethnic character, and violence was rampant on the borders between one group and another. Prejudice of all sort flowered in that hothouse environment: anti-Black, anti-Jewish, anti-Irish, anti-Italian. And the steady growth of Martin Dressler’s business empire would have been exceedingly unlikely, with financial panics and recessions dashing investors’ hopes every two or three years, including major depressions starting in 1873, 1893, and 1907. The City as depicted in this novel might have existed on Mars. It did not exist in the United States of America.
Why did this novel win a Pulitzer Prize?
So, why did this ill-conceived fairy tale receive the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction? The only explanation I can think of for this award, and for so many other instances of poorly chosen awardees, is that the literary types who serve on award juries are simply jaded. When I pick up a work of fiction, I want to read a story anchored in reality. Apparently, all too often, literary critics ignore whether a book is readable and believable. They seem to be looking, above all, for novelty—in style, format, or the deliberate blurring of genre boundaries. Ever since the publication of James Joyce’s unreadable tomes, the arbiters of literary taste have rejected the preferences of the reading public in favor of their own demands for fiction only they can appreciate.
The writer spends a lot of time detailing the impressive hotels Martin envisions and builds. But as he tries to make up for his lack of success in his personal life by over compensating in his business life, he fails at both.
It's sad, but he is not broken. He looks at it like this; he was not broken by failure, he was not broken by fear of failure, so in a way he has succeeded in a way many of us hold ourselves back from. He has tested the full limits of his knowledge, skills and abilities. He has no regrets.
We see where he went wrong. Eventually he sees where he went wrong too, but he argues; how can he see it as the wrong choice, since it is the logical choice, the natural choice to choose beauty over plainness, to choose form over function.
He rolled his dice till they came up snake eyes and he has no regrets. We should be happier for him, but I was not happier - maybe just a little wiser.
Enjoy this book, I did. I recommend it.
Top reviews from other countries
Millhauser writes fantasy/reality and is a top class storyteller. His tale of German American Dressler, son of a cigar maker, is one of great ambition, like the hero himself. He is old fashioned, romantic and very controlled. Martin's sin is hubris - his dreams know no bounds. The one explosion of creativity, which almost merits the full 5 stars, is the 50 pages at the end. His undoing is as remarkable as anything I've ever read. His sentences blossom to Melville size, his prose is electric, his imagination lets rip. It stands in marked contrast to the close clipped prose of the first three quarters of the book.
I can see why it won the Pulitzer, but it is hardly Millhauser's best work. For British readers looking for a great old fashioned rags to riches tale with a difference, this is one to cherish. I prefer my meat redder, my heroes more flawed and human.
ミルハウザーは、映画 『幻影師アイゼンハイム』の原作者として知った。原作は短編集《The Barnum Museum》に収録されている。こっちは翻訳を買ってしまった。てっとり早く読もうとしたためだ。でも、ミルハウザーの文体の魅力が分かったので、原書も買ってみよう。