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The Titan by Theodore Dreiser
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The Titan (1914)

by Theodore Dreiser

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Мельчает драйзер. Вторая часть ничего нового не привнесла. Меньше деталей больше воды. Еще кое-как держится в хвосте у первой. ( )
  Billy.Jhon | Apr 25, 2016 |
"I satisfy myself" says Frank Cowperwood the Titan in this story of one man's rise to power in the financial world of Chicago in the 1880's. Written in a realist style the book has been said to provide an interpretation of American Public Morality. This is a world where making money matters above all else, but Dreiser invests his hero Cowperwood with a rich understanding of the human psyche and this gives him an advantage over his competitors. Every man has his price and everyman has a limit as to how far he is prepared to go and Cowperwood's knowledge of this and his willingness to use every means at his disposal to succeed makes him appear either, as a monster or superhero; the line is really that blurred in Dreiser's excellent characterisation.

The Titan is the second book of a trilogy and we learn that Cowperwood had recently been released from prison where he served a sentence for illegal financial dealing in Philadelphia. During his time in jail his investments have made him a rich man and with the support of his mistress the beautiful Aileen Butler, of good family, he is prepared to take on the world again. He sees Chicago as his kind of town, a place seething with energy and expanding at a colossal rate. It is controlled by men representing old American money, families that form a close knit society whose financial dealings enable them to control city hall and the local politicians. Cowperwood's methods of buying his way into this society are resisted by the old elite and his aggressive financial dealings soon make enemies of the old patriarchs. His seduction of one of their wives and his refusal to be bested, stir up a hatred that becomes intensely personal and he finds himself in a battle for control of the city. Bribery, corruption and the pursuit of money is the oil that makes the machinery of government work smoothly and Cowperwood knows how to make the wheels turn. He gathers around himself a coterie of lawyers, financial men and crooked politicians and with his financial acumen and his ability to seize on opportunity he takes on the old guard. Cowperwood's power plays in the financial world are offset by his power plays in the bedroom. He is a strong man and in Dreiser's world sexual potency is an essential requirement.:

"Sex interest in all strong men usually endures unto the end, governed by a stoic resignation"

Cowperwood enjoys his conquests, but he is questing as always and it is for the perfect partner, this is one that will provide him with the stimulus he needs and also the intelligence to be able to make it in society. He blames Aileen (whom he marries) for his failure to break into the Chicagoan high society and his relationship with his wife and his desire for a younger more intelligent model, is a second strand in the novel to his financial dealings.

Dreiser's book and in fact the whole trilogy is based on the character of Frank Cowperwood and ultimately its success or failure depends on whether we can believe in the man as much as we can the world that he inhabits. Cowperwood is not one for naval gazing and so while he does feel guilt for the way he treats Aileen and some of his business rivals, he can offset this with largesse: money gives him power to fix things and while his understanding of human nature makes him realise that this is not always enough at least it can ameliorate the guilt that he does feel. Cowperwood's human side and and his at times warped sense of fair play coupled with his fight against a society whose values are at a similar pitch or worse than his own make this self made man into a hero that some of us may want to see succeed. Dreiser wants us to admire the man; after all he is the kind of person that made America into a country whose values and beliefs dominate much of the Western world today. Chicago in the period of its rapacious growth from 1880 until 1905 when this novel ends is vividly portrayed especially in the early part of the book. The vibrancy, the energy the feel of a town that is on the verge of becoming a great city is well caught. Cowperwood makes his money by buying up gas companies and then street cars and Dreiser manages to portray both services desperately trying to keep pace with change, growth and new technologies. One gets the feeling in the best parts of this novel of a pulsating life that is messy, almost out of control, but boisterously overcoming all barriers in its will to succeed.

The novel does go into some detail about the financial dealings of the period and much of this I do not pretend to understand, it may or may not be of interest to other readers. The boodling politicians and their ways and means of stuffing ballot boxes are all too familiar and I felt on safer ground with this aspect. Dreiser's writing was considered to be part of the Literary Naturalism movement and so the reader would expect to find a certain amount of realism, which can be detailed. One would also expect to see how social conditions, heredity and the environment shapes human character and this is a major theme in the novel. Although in this case the environment is the financial and political world and some aspects of high society, there is precious little about the "great unwashed": the working classes: they are seen primarily as a barrier to progress then as a threat to society itself giving the novel a right wing perspective. However while one may admire Cowperwood, one certainly can't admire the world that he inhabits and this brings out the dichotomy that is inherent throughout the novel. The reader is torn between wanting to admire Cowperwood and all he represents; as he battles to get to the top in a society that has many of the faults of rampant capitalism, with the ways and corrupt means that he gleefully uses. There is the dichotomy of his relationships with women, who are depicted no more unkindly than their men. There is also a further dichotomy between the world of finance and the world of art. Cowperwood is portrayed as a genuine lover of art, he is collecting pictures for his gallery, which will of course be investments and a legacy to the nation. He admires some artists and will accept their different outlook on the world, although he struggles to see their place in it, he wants the women in his life to be both intelligent, to appreciate, or be artists themselves as long as they remain true to his vision of the world.

Dreiser's novel was published in 1914 and it depicts a time in America's history twenty years previously and so the reader will look in vain for progressive modern ideas. It is concerned with giving an accurate portrayal of the emergence of a powerful nation and the forces and men that brought this into being. This it does admirably. It also has a fascinating portrait of a powerful, successful man perfectly attuned to the times in which he lives. You may admire him or you may not, that will probably depend on your own view of the world, but there is enough of a dichotomy in his character to make him more than just a product of his times. I found this an absorbing read and while this is by no means anything like a perfect novel it was well worth the time spent reading, perhaps it also gives an insight into the American psyche. (which is something else I don't pretend to understand.) I am tempted to read Dreiser's American Tragedy which is considered to be his most successful novel and I would rate this at 3.5 stars. ( )
9 vote baswood | Feb 20, 2014 |
One of my favorite book series of all time. The Financier, The Titan, and The Stoic
  JandP | Oct 29, 2011 |
The Titan, the second book in the "Trilogy of Desire" - in which Cowperwood, now out of prison, fashions a new fortune for himself, was the first of this trilogy that I read when I was devouring Dreiser in high school. My first taste of his writing was Sister Carrie, about the young girl who comes to Chicago; Dreiser intertwined her narrative of being seduced by the lure of the city with the counter-narrative of a middle-aged man seduced by desire for Carrie. I followed this with his greatest novel, An American Tragedy, the story of the ill-fated Clyde Griffiths. And soon after read The Titan in this 1960 Laurel paperback edition.

I continue to enjoy the journalistic prose of Theodore Dreiser and commend his novels to all interested in discovering the flowering of naturalism in American literature. ( )
  jwhenderson | Dec 28, 2010 |
Wikipedia: The Titan is a novel written by Theodore Dreiser in 1914. Book two of Dreiser's "A Trilogy Of Desire" series.
The theme of The Titan is one of man's drive for absolute power. Power ruthlessly pursued, power blindly worshipped, Power over business, a city, a life. The setting is Chicago and New York in the age of the Robber Barons; the protagonist is Frank Cowperwood, already wealthy, but out to build a financial empire vast enough to satisfy his appetite for what he thinks is success. ( )
This review has been flagged by multiple users as abuse of the terms of service and is no longer displayed (show).
  billyfantles | Sep 14, 2006 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0786118261, Audio Cassette)

When Frank Algernon Cowperwood emerged from the Eastern District Penitentiary in Philadelphia he realized that the old life he had lived in that city since boyhood was ended. His youth was gone, and with it had been lost the great business prospects of his earlier manhood. He must begin again.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:16 -0400)

In this sequel to Dreiser's novel The Financier, the author continues his exploration of the social and economic forces at play in the rise of the new class of super-rich capitalists in early twentieth-century America. Protagonist Frank Cowperwood attempts to leave his shameful past behind and settles in Chicago with his new wife. Will this quintessentially American act of self-reinvention succeed?… (more)

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