older biographies. Nor, as a whole,ndoes this work even begin to approachnthe art of biography. But it must bensaid that Lingeman is much morendetailed than other biographers, especiallynwhen dealing with Dreiser’s romanticninvolvements, his relations withnhis publishers, and his political ruminations.nAs to his romantic escapades, thenfacts are quite simple: Dreiser wasnsex-obsessed and a compulsive philanderer.nAs one reads this volume,nDreiser’s affairs seem tawdrier and tawdrier,nmore and more meaningless.nNot only Thelma Cudlipp but alsonElaine Hyman, Estelle Bloom Kubitz,nLouisa Campbell, Lillian Rosenthal,nAnna Tatum, Yvette Szekely, SallynKusell, a Mrs. Howey, a MaudenGuitteau, a Magdalen Davis, a MargueritenTjader Harris, an ElizabethnCoakley — the list of typists, would-benwriters, variety showgirls, and literaryngroupies whom Dreiser seduced (ornwas willingly seduced by) appears endless.nSome of his inamoratas Dreisernidentified in his notebooks only byntheir initials; some in the biographynhave disguised names. One of themnLingeman can only identify as “ThenDark Lady. ” Few of them meantnmuch more to Dreiser than a quickntumble. Many of the affairs were simultaneous,nDreiser turning two ornthree tricks a day. Dreiser’s spasmodicnrecord obliges Lingeman at one pointnto add a footnote: “Let it be stated fornthe record that not all of the womennwho were friendly with or worked fornDreiser were amorously involved withnhim.”nNietzsche taught him to believe thatnthe superman could attain a transcendencenover conventional morality, a notionnevident both in his CowperwoodnTrilogy (about the business tycoonnCharles T. Yerkes) and in his lubriciousnsex life. His principal champion, H.L.nMencken, complained that Dreisernthought himself to be the “first cock innGreenwich Village” and did “littlenwriting but devotes himself largely tonthe stud.” On Dreiser’s compulsivenphilandering, mendacity, and betrayalnof women, Lingeman offers no clearnpsychological understanding. And tonsubmit Dreiser to moral judgmentnseems never to occur to him.nWhat is evident is that Dreiser had anbottomless sense of self-loathing andninsecurity that made it necessary fornhim to present himself as helplessly innneed and to prove his worth by sexualnconquest and frantic money-making.nHelen Patges Richardson apparendynunderstood this need, for she lived withnDreiser, off and on, for more than anquarter of a century despite what hendignified with the pseudo-scientificnterm “varietism” in his “affectionalnrelations.”nWith respect to his publishers,nDreiser’s behavior was likewise tawdry.nHe continually fought with them,ncomplained that they did not promotenhis books, suspected them of cheatingnhim (especially if they were “clevernJews”), and jumped ship if he smelledna better offer. Much of his writing wasnso clumsy, or tedious, or offensive tonconventional morality that he saw himselfnas the victim of American puritanism—nand indeed The “Genius” wasnso lewd for its time that its publicationnwas delayed by the Society for thenSuppression of Vice. Dreiser complainednof the “fierce opposition ornchilling indifference” that greeted “allnthose who attempted anything evennpartially serious in America”: “Onendared not talk out loud, one dared notnreport life as it was, as one lived it.”nYet he was not above censoringnothers. As editor of the Delineator,nLingeman writes, Dreiser told H.G.nWells to “tone down a novel submittednto the Del for serialization. WhilenWells’s theme ‘might delight the highlynintellectual woman,’ he said, ‘it wouldnpossibly offend the rank and file.’ Henasked Wells ‘to modify or eliminate innthe remainder of the book the keennthrusts against morality and society.'”nAbout this inconsistency Lingemanncomes to no judgment.nDreiser’s lucubrations on politics—na substantial part of this volumen— hardly redeem him from the aversionnreaders will invariably feel for hisnattitudes. His distaste for the Englishnmade him seem pro-German duringnWorid War I, and outbursts of anti-nSemitism in the 1930’s seemed to givenaid and comfort to the Nazis. Lingemannremarks that Dreiser regarded thenFiihrer as “a kind of Autobahn populistnwho stood up to big business andnfinance.” But during this periodnDreiser was in fact constantly driftingntoward the left. He had been invited tonthe Soviet Union in 1927, the year hennnearned the equivalent of a half millionndollars, and he returned to announcenin Dreiser Looks at Russia (1928) thatncommunism had “taken the heartachenand the material tragedy from millionsnand millions of lives” and that “there isnmuch less liberty in America” thannunder Stalin’s regime. Democracy, henannounced in 1930, was a “farce.”nDuring the Depression his attacksnon American democracy made thenCommunist Party yearn to recruit him,nbut he was turned down by EarlnBrowder as too individualistic, a “loosencannon.” Yet Dreiser repeatedly gavenhis name for use by the InternationalnLabor Defense, a Party front, andn”when the Daily Worker required ancontribution for the May Day issue onnthe press and political prisoners, he toldnthem to write it themselves — ‘to assurenyou have just the statement younwant’ — and he would edit and sign it.n’Make it strong,’ he told the editor.” Atnthe Party’s bidding he produced “investigativenlabor reporting” in Pittsburghnand elsewhere and naturally becamenthe daring of Izvestia forn”attacking capitalism and America’snpseudo-democracy.” After Browdernwas ousted, Dreiser was indeed recruited,nleading Lingeman to utter thesenstupefying words: “Finally it should bensaid that Dreiser didn’t join the Party innmore than a formal sense.” In fact,nDreiser is yet another instance of thencompassionate American writer withoutnany political sense, seduced by thenParty apparat.nAs a man, then, Dreiser in Lingeman’snportrait offers little to admire,ndespite his biographer’s unaccountablynsympathetic and nonjudgmental treatment.nIt is, however, possible to admirensome of the novels — particularlynCarrie, The Financier, and An AmericannTragedy. These survive — despitentheir grotesque stylistic flaws, despitenthe pseudoscientific descriptions of humannbehavior and the amoralism theynconvey—because Dreiser was effectivenat communicating his essentialnmoving theme: the pathetic individualncaught in the tangled snare of his ownndreams and appetites, the tragedy ofndesire, the immense pity of the world.nJames W. Tuttleton is a professor ofnEnglish at New York University.nMARCH 1991/41n