Friday, April 18, 2014

Sister Carrie

"Sister Carrie" was the April selection for Newberry.  On my way out, the leader of last month's discussion said she thought my comment about not reading more Marquez was funny.  And then Pete came home and asked "guess who died?".  RIP Marquez.  What strange timing.

And now back to Carrie.  I read the book and also listened to it on audio book when I was out walking or knitting.  It was an interesting way to read the work.  I found more humor in the book than I think others in the group did.  I thought Hurstwood's slide into wearing casual clothes and shaving less frequently when he was unemployed was so modern.  Sweatpants anyone?  I also found humor in Carrie's mentally spending her money in excess of what she actually had available.  Who hasn't done that before?  Wow, it doesn't go as far as I thought.

I have started noticing an interesting book group phenomenon.  It happens sometimes in our Novella group and happened yesterday at Newberry.  Why do some people feel they have to like, or respect, or build up, the main character of a book even if that character does not deserve the praise?  There is no contract with an author that says I have to add certain positive traits to a character if they do not exist.  One woman yesterday said Carrie was so observant and insightful.  I would agree to observant.  She certainly noticed clothes and finery and what others had that she did not.  But insightful?  No way.  In the book there were very long stretches where she had no action and took no responsibility for her life.  She is more than happy to live off other's money but when someone else needs help she leaves and says she needs her money for her clothes.  Selfish?  Yes.  Insightful?  No.

The edition of the book that I had (pictured above) included an afterward where the writer said that Sister Carrie might be compared to the modern day Carrie Bradshaw of "Sex in the City".  What???  I'm not a huge "Sex in the City" fan but Carrie Bradshaw had a job, made her own money, had friends and took responsibility for her actions - good or bad.  Sister Carrie drifts along and, only by chance and some talent is successful - certainly not by any hard work or extreme effort.

Some of us were talking after the group and said that you might enjoy this book more if you are from Chicago.  It is also a history of the city during a specific time.  If you want to read a book about Chicago I would suggest "The Jungle" or "The Man with the Golden Arm" before "Sister Carrie".  One part of the book I really did like, however, were the chapter titles.  They were fabulous.  Dreiser was a journalist and the title headings read like very interesting headlines.  In Chapter 14 (spoiler alert!!!) Carrie, Hurstwood and Drouet encounter a panhandler at the end of the section.  Carrie doesn't even notice the person, Hurstwood only vaguely registers it and Drouet is the only one moved by it and gives the man some money.  The title of the chapter is "With Eyes and Not Seeing: One Influence Wanes".

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