Jennie Gerhardt is back

A few years ago, at some random point in my reading journey, an author or critic said he or she preferred Theodore Dreiser’s Jennie Gerhardt, published in 1911, to the more famously known and assigned Dreiser classic Sister Carrie

Not just preferred, though — the book was described as a favorite.

I went online to purchase a copy, only to discover an expensive academic paperback as the sole available new choice.  Then to the libraries, but no luck there, either.  For two years, I looked for this book, searching for the title whenever I entered a book environment.  I don’t know why I didn’t shop more extensively online for a used copy —  I’m thinking there wasn’t a desirable one available. 

Persistence paid off, and one day there it was on a shelf in a used bookstore.  A first hardbound edition, no less, for $10.

Now it’s available from Dodo Press, which released a new paperback this year (January 2009) for approximately $14 . 

Here’s what I found about Dodo Press: “Where books are no longer in print or poorly available, we are seeking to make them available again by republishing, we do this through 2 Imprints called Dodo Press and Asio Press.”

The story is about a lower class girl caught up with wealthy men, submitting to them sexually to help her family financially. Similar to my source recommendation, I enjoyed Jennie Gerhardt much more than Sister Carrie.  Jennie is so very vulnerable and sympathetically yet authentically (i.e., without tugging at heartstrings) given to us that she’s hard to forget, hard not to love and hope for.  Her story is set in Columbus, Ohio, Cleveland, Cincinnati and Chicago.  Columbus residents who remember The Neil House, across from the State Capitol, will recognize it in the first pages. 

H. L. Mencken, a longtime friend of Dreiser, said of Jennie Gerhardt:  “I am firmly convinced that Jennie Gerhardt is the best American novel I have ever read, with the lonesome but Himalayan exception of Huckleberry Finn.”

Thank you Dodo Press for making this engaging story readily available in an affordable paperback.