In my search to read about women artists in fiction, I was reminded about The "Genius" by Theodore Dreiser and decided to read it again. The reason being that the story is littered with women artists, people the main protagonist – the “Genius” – either befriends or beds.
I think the quotation marks around the word are craftily used, because he’s a small town youth like just about any other when we first meet him. He’s got a long way to go when he arrives in New York. But he has a very handy way of using people to get what he wants and in this regard, the book is spot-on. The language of Dreiser was always spare, too, cut with a knife.
Dreiser knows his women too, though they are depressingly expressed as over the hill, having missed their chances by so much parental protection, coddled, unfulfilled. Still, they are the ones who give Eugene most of his knowledge about the ways of the world, where to go in NYC, who is who and what is what. He even thinks that his real education came from a woman artist (over the hill at thirty, but totally essential otherwise), not the Chicago Art Institute.
- I fully expected to be completely engrossed again, like I was last time I read it - I remember loving Dreiser - but maybe I know this story a little too well by now. And I don't mean as fiction!
I must have been in love with young men like him once (er, more than once - ?). It's odd how the type was once so attractive to me and now I am strangely not curious as to how the story will turn out. But it is sort of like an assignment and I will not bail.
Everyone is crazy about Eugene, all the girls are wild for him. He's got everyone snowed. He goes through one after another without a thought to who gets affected. They are all to be used and to feed his appetite, which is painted as naive. But I think the book is very accurate in how he ultimately comes off as a narcissist - without of course the need for any analysis, because what else would an artist be...?