Book Club: Martin Dressler – American Dreamer

So we moved on to the next book — Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer by Steven Millhauser. And… I hated it.

Okay, that’s slightly (slightly) unfair. I really hated the ending. It was just such a let down. I won’t explain what happened, but basically, it was just… ugh. Anyway.

Like I mentioned with The Hours and other books we’ve read in book club, as a writer and lover of literature, I can appreciate much of the technical prowess within this book. Millhauser’s writing is interesting. His most fascinating “character” in this book is the various settings. The hotels, the restaurants, the city of New York — these are more alive and have more depth than most of the human characters.

But, like with the other books… that’s all I have to say. We did have a lively discussion about the book in our book club (mostly discussing our disdain for Dressler’s character development…and, again, the ending, though the person who listened to the audio book instead didn’t have such a strong negative reaction to it, which I think is a fascinating case study in the importance and impact of a good narrator…). I’m still trying to sort through the why of it all. Why are these books so fleeting? Is it my lack of connection to the sort of “American pastoral” narrative structure that is a fundamental requirement for a book to win a Pulitzer Prize? Is it the continual focus on the setting and not on the characters? 

I’m still trying. I really am. But it is, admittedly, a struggle. It’s a good thing I really love my book club compatriots and just enjoy chatting with them even if I don’t like the books we’re talking about!