The Sister Carrie edition that was published in 1900, long regarded as a watershed work in American fiction, was actually a censored misrepresentation of Drieser's original story. When, 80 years later, the Pennsylvania Edition first appeared, replete with scholarly apparatus, it was hailed from coast to coast as a literary event of major importance. The Pennsylvania Edition restored the 36,000 words that had been excised at the insistence of the author's wife, his publisher, and a friend.
This edition contains the complete, unexpurgated text, without the scholarly apparatus, plus a new introductory essay by Thomas P. Riggio.
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