Before coming to national attention for his novel "Sister Carrie", Theodore Dreiser worked for nearly a decade as a magazine editor and freelance writer. In this volume, liberally seasoned with period illustrations, Yoshinobu Hakutani has collected and annotated a rich selection of Dreiser's early writings on the cultural milieu of his day. In these brief essays, Dreiser sallies into the vibrant world of creative work in turn-of-the-century America. He inspects the eccentric and revealing paraphernalia of artists' studios, probes the work habits of writers, and goes behind the scenes in the popular song-writing business, where this week's celebrity is next week's has-been. He notes the proliferation of organizations such as the Camera Club of New York and the American Water-Color Society and profiles or interviews famous figures such as Alfred Stieglitz, William Dean Howells, and the legendary impresario Major James Burton Pond. He also introduces numerous women artists, novelists, and musicians, including the prolific and tireless Amelia Barr (mother of fourteen children and author of thirty-two novels), the illustrator Alice B. Stephens, and the opera singer Lillian Nordica. Hakutani's notes provide biographical detail on dozens of now-obscure individuals mentioned by Dreiser. Bubbling up through Dreiser's observations and reflections are a keen curiosity about the creative process and a passion for identifying the peculiarly American spirit reflected in the young nation's artists and their work. These miniature portraits of the people who were the talk of the town at the turn of the century capture American culture at a moment when the United States was intent on demonstrating its ability to produce fine art and literature worthy of European models yet distinctively its own.