Sunday, January 6, 2008

Martin Dressler

Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer by Steven Millhauser won the 1997 Pulitzer for Fiction. It was originally published in 1996. My paperback edition has 293 pages. This appears to be one of those books people either enjoy or dislike. Personally, much of your reaction to this book will depend upon how you view it. Martin Dressler is subtitled The Tale of an American Dreamer for a reason. It is a multi-tiered work that encompasses an American myth. In Dressler, Millhauser has created a character that rises from humble beginnings, working in his father's cigar store, and reaches his goal, a hotel magnate. As Dressler moves more and more into his dream world and is successful with his ventures, his personal life disintegrates. When he takes his vision to the ultimate expression, the other-worldly Grand Cosmo, the question arises, "Did he dream the wrong dream?" I highly recommend. rating: 4

Martin Dressler is a turn-of-the-century New York City entrepreneur who begins in his father's cigar store but dreams of a bigger empire. That dream shapes into a series of large hotels. At first, Dressler's seems the archetypal American success story, but he does not quite grasp the future. The Manhattan of fabled skyline is about to take shape just over the horizon, but Dressler cannot see it. So the story becomes another kind of fable, as Dressler contemplates having "dreamed the wrong dream."

first sentence:
"There once was a man named Martin Dressler, a shopkeeper's son, who rose from modest beginnings to a height of dreamlike good fortune"

"And he had a gift that surprised people: he could swiftly sense the temperament of a customer and make sensible, precise suggestions."

"But if people liked him... it wasn't at all, he decided, because he was striking to look was because of something else, some quality of sympathy or curiosity that made him concentrate his deepest attention on them, made him sense their secret moods."

"As he walked, looking about, taking it all in, feeling a pleasant tension in his calves and thighs, he felt a surge of energy, a kind of restlessness, a desire to do something to test himself, to become, in some way, larger than he was."

"In Mr. Westerhoven's arguments there was always a ground of the solid and practical, but Martin knew that they were arguing... about the manager's secret desire to stop the city from it's rush into the new century, his desire to return to his childhood parlor..."

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