An English teacher back in High School assigned us 2 books to read one winter: McTeague by Frank Norris and The Child Buyer by John Hersey. I remember McTeague as being a fairly enjoyable book, but I don’t believe I ever got into the Hersey novel. The Rise of Silas Lapham by William Dean Howells, seems to be of the same category as those assigned by a High School English teacher – dry.

The Rise of Silas Lapham (Penguin Classics)The Rise of Silas Lapham by William Dean Howells
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The edition that I picked up, contains a 22 page introduction by Kermit Vanderbilt. From the introduction, I was led to believe that The Rise of Silas Lapham was a highly scholastic piece of American literature, and by the time I was through with the intro, was eager to get on with it.

The storyline was a little blasé to me, and reminded me of another great American work, Main Street by Sinclair Lewis, which seemed to be of a similar genre though written decades later – Howells is considered a progenitor of realism while Lewis is regarded as member of the “lost generation”, which included Theodore Dreiser and Ernest Hemingway.

I believe the common thread between the Lapham novel and Main Steet is the satirical view of materialism in our capitalistic society.

Though this may be a good candidate for required reading by a student of literature, it’s not necessarily my “cup of tea”.

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Steve D.

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