Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, 1997

While I am sure that most people begin a Pulitzer Prize winning novel with excitement about the treasure they are about to read, I begin with a little trepidation. Will the novel live up to the hype of winning America s most prestigious literary prize? In several cases I was simply disappointed. So with that in mind, I began Martin Dressler . The subtitle to this book is The Tale of an American Dreamer , and that is exactly what this is.

The novel opens near the turn of the 20th century. Young Martin Dressler works in his father s cigar shop and from a young age he knows the business as well as any grown man. He suggests the occasional improvement to his father and the customers trust Martin nearly as much as they do Mr. Dressler, and that says something. Martin dreams of more than simply inheriting the cigar shop. He dreams grand dreams, of constantly moving up in the world, so when an opportunity arises to take a job at a local hotel, he takes it. Martin is a hard worker, and more important, he is an excellent worker. He is promoted several times and it seems as if he is being groomed for some of the top positions in the hotel (the novel jumps forward several years at times throughout the story). Martin s dreams are bigger than being stuck in the hotel and working for someone else, though, so just when he is about to be promoted even further, he resigns and opens up his own business, a cafeteria.

Naturally Martin is a success. He has been a success at everything that he does. With every success at business, he takes the business to the next level, expanding the cafeteria and opening a chain of them in the New York area. He expands even more and buys a hotel and becomes incredibly successful. With each success, Martin dreams bigger and bigger and he refuses to be satisfied with what he has, and he has a lot.

This is the story of Martin s dreams and his pursuit of his dreams, even when he doesn t quite know what he is pursuing. All Martin knows is that he wants something bigger, better, and grander. While this puts him on the path to success, it can also be the path to ruin if he does not temper his dreams with reality.

I was surprised and impressed with how much I enjoyed reading this book. It had sat on my bookshelf for several years because I just couldn t make myself start the novel, but when I did, I loved it. Despite being written in 1997, it felt a little old fashioned, but that fit perfectly to the character of the book. It is also a tale that could be told today, of modern day American dreamers and what can happen if those dreams are unchecked by reality.