Saturday, October 24, 2009


If you're a "Sex In The City" fan like I am, you're obsessed with watching Carrie Bradshaw's suave success as a columnist with a major New York paper.  She journals about her life and her friends and all that encompasses life in Manhattan.  Besides that, they are slaves to fashion, covetously looking at Jimmy Choo shoes at $5000 that are a must have.  I guess I like watching it so much because A) it is hilarious and B) it is nice to imagine that I could just walk into some high end boutique and slip into an Oscar de la Renta creation.  Not that I don't think  the cost of fashion is ridiculous, but I do love the art.  
So, what does this have to do with "Sister Carrie" by Theodore Dreiser, which was first published in 1900?  The first sketches of life in Chicago find Carrie at her sister's austere, barely meat and potatoes flat.  Her sister and her dullard blank staring cow faced husband are as much fun as getting a Brazilian wax! Carrie wants to see CHICAGO!  She has  just fled a sleepy town which  suffocated her ambitions.  
Obviously we have a separation of little over a hundred years between these two Carrie's but their character's are of the same guild. The more things change the more they stay the same.
Now, I don't know if you remember when Sarah Jessica Parker started off as a poor orphan who later was  adopted by "Daddy Warbucks", then unfortunately she became a big nerd referred to as "String Bean"on a show entitled "Square Pegs", then she was a redneck in "Footloose", following that there were some less than noteworthy bit roles. Later, I saw her in a hilarious movie with Steve Martin (L.A. Stories) where they were dating.  The scene that stood out the most was when they took a romantic get away.  The first night in bed together Martin abruptly throws up the sheets and declares, "Good God, what are wrong with your breasts?" To which she replies, "Oh they're real".  That stepping stone lands her into the heart of Manhattan where she turns into the fashionista diva, Carrie Bradshaw!
*Sister Carrie, poor unrefined bumpkin, naive as a babe in the woods shows up in Chicago.  Her first job is in a shoe factory (Oh, the monotonous dreariness). She is a shabby hidden butterfly who covets all the glamor that surrounds here.  
*Then she hooks up with a sport called Drouet who is a sleek looking and  slick talking character that really does have a good heart but wandering nether regions.  He helps Carrie and sets here up in nice quarters and clothes.  (This is the beginning of the clothing obsession).  No Jimmy Choo shoes but pearl buttons, parasols, leather patten lace up boots, silks, bejeweled purses, hats...and so on.  She and Drouet live together but then it just doesn't work out.  Like Carrie Bradshaw she seems to have commitment issues.
*She than hooks up with an older esteemed gentleman, Hurstwood (Mr. Big) who sweeps her off her feet with his position, power and of course MONEY.
*One little problemo, he's already hitched to a Stepford nightmare wife and has two bratty self indulgent adult kids. 
*Hurstwood (after some moral deflation of the most unscrupulous variety) flees to New York with Carrie, and as his decline becomes inevitable her rise as an actress is a forgone conclusion.  
*Hurstwood withers to the point where he is unrecognizable.  He ventures into the dregs of society as Carrie becomes Manhattan's "IT" girl.
*And, of course there are new love interests and the ever present obsession with fifth avenue.

Now, this is a ridiculous review of this novel.  But, the social, sexual, Victorian caste system analysis can be read anywhere. But, if I really wanted to say something about this book, I would have titled it  "It Is But The Work Of A Moment"It really is Hurstwood's story and he is by far the most compelling character.  Dreiser's narration style reminds me of Dickens.  And, I also kept thinking about the angel in "It's A Wonderful Life" giving us the characters little backgrounds and inner feelings as they would provide the proof.  Recommend*** Ahh, Yeah!


Anonymous said...

I totally get the connection - Carrie Bradshaw's obsession with Manolo Blahniks (sp?) and Sister Carrie working in a shoe factory!

I have this book but I never read it; now I'll go into it having visions of cosmos and Mr. Big. Awesome review!

Kris said...

I thought it interesting that Dreiser really had a handle on the whole "Manhattan High Society" fashion, dining etc. He came from a poor German family with like twelve kids. He was really in touch with style and taste for someone who really didn't travel in those circles! He must have read Vanity Fair like me;)