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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Dreamers

John Kendrick Bangs

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To purchase The Dreamers

Title: The Dreamers
Author: John Kendrick Bangs
Genre: Novel
Written: 1899
Length: 249 pages
Availability: The Dreamers - US
The Dreamers - UK
The Dreamers - Canada
  • A Club
  • Being a More or Less Faithful Account of the Literary Exercises of the First Regular Meeting of the Organization
  • With illustrations by Edward Penfield

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Our Assessment:

B : entertaining and fun, if a bit simple

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The NY Times - Saturday Rev. . 8/7/1899 .

  From the Reviews:
  • "Much that Mr. Bangs writes seems to be very easily written. (...) As a popular humorist, Mr. Bangs has long been conspicuous, and there is no reason why everybody who has found his previous works amusing should not laugh long and heartily over the jokes of The Dreamers." - The New York Times Saturday Review of Books and Art

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Dreamers is a literary pastiche and travesty, the club that is formed merely an excuse to make good fun of the literary stylings (and stylers) of Bangs' day. A group of characters are convinced that literary inspiration comes in dreams. They decide to form a club, meeting once a month to consume a marvelous meal, then head home to sleep -- and dream. The plan is then to record the dreams, and read the results at the next meeting.
       The beginning amusingly reveals the misconceptions the group labours under: most of the difficulty of writing, they're sure, is in the mechanical setting down of the words on the page -- a problem they surmount through the use of a stenographer. Creative writing ? "These things require very little intellectual labor", they believe -- and if anyone could prove this claim, they could.
       Literary journalist Billy Jones, of the Weekly Oracle, is to edit the resulting collection, and he's the only one that realizes how foolish these men are. But there's good food -- and some fun entertainment -- to be had, so aside from some sharp asides he lets them go about their foolishness (and, appropriately, the last laugh is on him).
       Bangs dedicates his book (with respect and apologies) to the very authors he makes fun of. Among them are: William Dean Howells, Rudyard Kipling, Anthony Hope, A.Conan Doyle, James M. Barrie, and Finley Peter Dunne's "Mr. Dooley". Also parodied are magazine poets and war correspondents -- as well as Henry James.
       Bangs is an expert parodist, and wields a sure pen. Many of the jokes are very obvious -- "There is nothing helps a book so much as the leaving of something to the reader's imagination. I heard a great critic say so once", one of the characters says, leading Jones to suggest that leaving the pages blank might make them "the most interesting in the book" -- but they are funny.
       Bangs doesn't go for subtlety: the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel appears both as the Waldoria and the Walledup-Hysteria, and he couldn't be bothered to do better than burden the characters by geographic names (Monty St. Vincent, Haarlem Bridge, Bedford Parke, etc.).
       Because there are a dozen different offerings (including poetry, and what passes for drama as well as war correspondence), Bangs is able to introduce a great deal of variety and his jokes don't become too tiresome. He is inventive, and though the humour is too broad on occasion, most of this is still of considerable fun. Still: much of the fun is presumably lost on modern readers, who are unlikely to have read the work of more than one or two of those being parodied. Only a Sherlock Holmes story, "The Mystery of Pinkham's Diamond Stud", and a hilarious Henry James-imitation ("The Involvular Club; or, The Return of the Screw", which puts even its own author to sleep) likely truly resonate in contemporary ears.
       Even the other offerings are of some interest, however. It's all accomplished stuff: Bangs writes with amazing ease, and if he does take it too easily on occasion it still makes for some good, light entertainment. It's a dated work, but there's still some sparkle left -- and it is a fun period piece.

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John Kendrick Bangs: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       American author John Kendrick Bangs (1862-1922) wrote many popular humorous works.

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