Steven Millhauser won the Pulitzer Prize for this tale of living and dreaming in America. At the end of the 19th century in New York City, young Martin Dressler has aspirations beyond those of running his own tobacco store as his father before him. At the young age of fourteen he works at the Vanderlyn Hotel as a bellboy in addition to putting in hours at his fathers store. He works his way up to day clerk then personal secretary to the manager while running the little concession shop in the lobby as a sideline. As he becomes more successful he leases a building with his business partner Mr. Dundee and opens the Metropolitan Lunchroom to much acclaim.
Soon Dressler contemplates marriage and weds the eldest daughter of the widowed Mrs. Margaret Vernon. Caroline is a quiet and fragile beauty but Dressler is certain the match is right despite certain misgivings. He employs the younger daughter Emmeline as a cashier as his chain of lunchrooms expands. Eventually he sells the cafes and buys the aging and outdated Vanderlyn Hotel. With financial backing he makes the hotel over and it is a success. Barely a few years pass before he has grand designs for the more modern and greater Dressler Hotel. It is a sensation upon it's opening with daring designs and bold features never before seen in Manhattan. Meanwhile his relationship with Caroline has continually deteriorated, as she frequently takes ill with fatigue and headaches. Dressler is drawn to Emmeline who is now working for the hotel and has become a sounding board for his ideas and aspirations.
The relationship is friendly and platonic but he often thinks he married the wrong sister. Never one to rest on his laurels, Dressler builds an even taller, more impressive 18 story structure ten blocks north and calls it the New Dressler Hotel. One night Caroline enters the apartments suite of rooms and fires a gun at her sister in a jealous act that fails to hit the target but returns things to their previous course, as Emmeline spends her time nursing Caroline through her psychosomatic issues instead of working with Dressler. Finally Dressler and his Austrian born creative designer Rudolf Arling conceive his greatest vision yet, the Grand Cosmo. It will be a 30-story hotel with all the amenities one needs to live and never have to go anywhere. The colossal modern living community will be furnished with restaurants, shopping, recreation, theatres, parks, and entertainments levels, some of which will be among the 7 subterranean levels. Dressler is striving to make his dream a reality and a financial success while struggling in his relationship with his wife and her family.
This report prepared by David Fletcher