The text of the Third Edition is based on the 1900 Doubleday Page edition, with detailed annotations that reveal the author’s use of real people and places in Chicago and New York.The novel is followed by "A Note on the Text," which discusses the relationship between this edition’s text and that of the Pennsylvania Edition (1981), and a "Textual Appendix," which provides a generous sampling of the cuts Dreiser and his friend Arthur Henry made in the typescript version of Sister Carrie. "Backgrounds and Sources" reprints generous excerpts from Dreiser’s autobiographies and other writings that help establish his personal connection to the novel. Coverage of the supposed "suppression" of Sister Carrie by its first publisher is drawn from Dreiser’s correspondence with Frank Norris, Arthur Henry, Walter H. Page, and F. N. Doubleday. "Criticism" collects thirteen essays, six of them new to the Third Edition, that discuss Dreiser’s distinctive literary naturalism and narrative technique, the novel’s relationship to American culture, and issues of gender and class in the novel, among other topics. Contributors include Ellen Moers, Robert Penn Warren, Amy Kaplan, Alan Trachtenberg, and Donald Pizer, among others. A Chronology of Sister Carrie and a Selected Bibliography are also included.
Dreiser's story unfolds in the measured cadences of an earlier era. This sometimes works brilliantly as we follow the choices, small and large, that lead some characters to doom and others to glory. On the other hand, the middle chapters--of which there are many--do drag somewhat, even when one appreciates Dreiser's intentions. If you can make it through the sagging midsection, however, you'll be rewarded by Sister Carrie's last 150 pages, which depict the harrowing downward spiral of one of the book's central characters. Here Dreiser portrays with brutal power how the wrong decision--or lack of decision--can lay waste to a life. --Rebecca Gleason