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Pulitzer Book Club Inclusion Guide


"Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer" by Steven Millhauser



• Tiger Woods first Black and youngest Masters champion
• Madeleine Albright first female secretary of state
• Ellen DeGeneres comes out on “Time” cover



Steven Millhauser, born in NYC, was an Ivy League grad and professor, the educational opposite of his character Martin Dressler.


Featured Reader Wanted!

Featured Reader

– Share your key take-away about inclusion in this book in a sentence or two.
– Write a paragraph or two (up to 250 words) to describe your thoughts on exclusion/inclusion in the book, why you related or did not connect with the book, and why you think reading, inclusion and dialog about inclusion matter.
– Identify the name and website address of a cause you support with an inclusive mission.


Big imagination creates turn-of-century empire, minus some important stuff


Wedding night nightmare: rejection, affair, tutorial demanded from mother-in-law.


Fairy tale opening with foreboding. American Dream story minus the usual ending.


Short at 293 pages, 8+ hours on audio, great if you’re into architectural detail.


Visualize the future. Imagine how life can be better for others and what you can do to help create that reality.


Hard-working German entrepreneurs. Family of women from Boston. No mention of race but descriptions like “golden hair” indicate White casting. Wooden Indian imagery. Cultural appropriate in hotel concepts.


Breakfast: steak and eggs, buckwheat cakes and sausage, and fried eggs and ham served within five minutes, and apple-stuff pastry shaped like a pilgrim.


“Was there then something wrong with him, that he couldn’t just rest content? Must he always be dreaming up improvements? And it seemed to Martin that if only he could imagine something else, something great, something greater, something as great as the whole world, then he might rest awhile.”


Old-school formal hotel lobby or throwback lunchroom/diner vibe. German band music and balloon in the background.


How did opportunities at the turn of the 20th century for young ambitious men in NYC compare to opportunities for women, opportunities in rural areas, and opportunity today? Who is/was the American Dreamer and what is the American Dream?
What is the relative power of work ethic, partnerships, connections, education, vision, physical appearance, and charm in the context of promotions and business success? Interactions between rising star and others? Has that changed since the time of the setting of the novel? Since 1997 when the novel earned a Pulitzer?
What points did the novel make about independent businesses versus chain stores?
How much focus was on people versus product in this novel? How did extreme vision without a reality check from potential customers play out?
Compare the sisters, mother, and other women in the novel. Which of these types of women do you know? How prevalent are the attitudes toward the female characters in the novel today?
Why were actors, uniforms and hats part of the novel? What was the German-American stereotype in the novel?
How were employees treated by customers, especially demanding customers? Bosses? Family?
How do people create potential constraints on others and how do people break free?
How did Martin become the version of himself that he was waiting for?
Could a concept like the Grand Cosmo be built today? Why/why not?
Why was a Wooden Indian used by tobacconists during days of limited literacy? Where does cultural symbolism still exist in signage or advertising today?


DIY entrepreneur hall-of-fame tour. Choose a destination – NYC is only one option – and support and examine the reasons for success of an independent hotel, owner operated restaurants, shop in locally owned and operated stores musts being a cigar store and an indie book store. Walk around a lot and think about what makes those independent operations and entrepreneurs tick and succeed.


2006 film “The Illusionist” adapted from Millhauser's short story "Eisenheim the Illusionist."


1972 “Edwin Mullhouse” by Millhauser.

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