Sinclair Lewis
Overview
 
Harry Sinclair Lewis was an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 novelist, short-story writer, and playwright
Playwright
A playwright, also called a dramatist, is a person who writes plays.The term is not a variant spelling of "playwrite", but something quite distinct: the word wright is an archaic English term for a craftsman or builder...

. In 1930, he became the first writer from the United States to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature
Nobel Prize in Literature
Since 1901, the Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded annually to an author from any country who has, in the words from the will of Alfred Nobel, produced "in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction"...

, "for his vigorous and graphic art of description and his ability to create, with wit and humor, new types of characters." His works are known for their insightful and critical views of American society and capitalist
Capitalism
Capitalism is an economic system that became dominant in the Western world following the demise of feudalism. There is no consensus on the precise definition nor on how the term should be used as a historical category...

 values, as well as for their strong characterizations of modern working women.

He has been honored by the U.S. Postal Service
United States Postal Service
The United States Postal Service is an independent agency of the United States government responsible for providing postal service in the United States...

 with a Great Americans series
Great Americans series
The Great Americans series is a set of definitive stamps issued by the United States Postal Service, starting on December 27, 1980 with the 19¢ stamp depicting Sequoyah, and continuing through 2002, the final stamp being the 78¢ Alice Paul self-adhesive stamp. The series, noted for its simplicity...

 postage stamp
Postage stamp
A postage stamp is a small piece of paper that is purchased and displayed on an item of mail as evidence of payment of postage. Typically, stamps are made from special paper, with a national designation and denomination on the face, and a gum adhesive on the reverse side...

.
Born in the village of Sauk Centre
Sauk Centre, Minnesota
As of the census of 2000, there were 3,930 people, 1,616 households, and 1,042 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,057.2 people per square mile . There were 1,709 housing units at an average density of 459.7 per square mile...

, Minnesota
Minnesota
Minnesota is a U.S. state located in the Midwestern United States. The twelfth largest state of the U.S., it is the twenty-first most populous, with 5.3 million residents. Minnesota was carved out of the eastern half of the Minnesota Territory and admitted to the Union as the thirty-second state...

, Lewis began reading books at a young age and kept a diary.
Quotations

Every compulsion is put upon writers to become safe, polite, obedient, and sterile. In protest, I declined election to the National Institute of Arts and Letters some years ago, and now I must decline the Pulitzer Prize.

Letter declining the 1926 Pulitzer Prize for Arrowsmith

Slow yellow river flowing, willows that gesture in tepid August airs, and four children playing at greatness, as, doubtless, great men themselves must play.

Ann Vickers (1933) First lines.

Probably none of the Weagles gave five minutes' thought a year to theology or ecclesiology, except Ora, who occasionally stirred up a lot of interesting family irritation by announcing that he was going to become a Catholic, an Episcopalian, a Buddhist, or a Seventh Day Adventist.

Work of Art (1934) Ch. 4

Myron reflected that there are so many people in the world who are eager to do for you things that you do not wish done, provided only that you will do for them things that you don't wish to do.

Work of Art (1934) Ch. 21

Mr. Blingham, and may he fry in his own cooking-oil, was assistant treasurer of the Flaver-Saver Company.

Kingsblood Royal (1947) First lines.

His entire system of theology was comprised in the Bible, which he never read, and the Methodist Church, which he rarely attended.

Fine, large, meaningless, general terms like romance and business can always be related. They take the place of thinking, and are highly useful to optimists and lecturers.

The reason for it all, nobody who is actually engaged in it can tell you, except the bosses, who believe that these sacred rites of composing dull letters and solemnly filing them away are observed in order that they may buy the large automobiles in which they do not have time to take the air.

Mr. Wilkins came back and hemmed and hawed a good deal; he praised the work she hadn't considered well done, and pointed out faults in what she considered particularly clever achievements.

Encyclopedia
Harry Sinclair Lewis was an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 novelist, short-story writer, and playwright
Playwright
A playwright, also called a dramatist, is a person who writes plays.The term is not a variant spelling of "playwrite", but something quite distinct: the word wright is an archaic English term for a craftsman or builder...

. In 1930, he became the first writer from the United States to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature
Nobel Prize in Literature
Since 1901, the Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded annually to an author from any country who has, in the words from the will of Alfred Nobel, produced "in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction"...

, "for his vigorous and graphic art of description and his ability to create, with wit and humor, new types of characters." His works are known for their insightful and critical views of American society and capitalist
Capitalism
Capitalism is an economic system that became dominant in the Western world following the demise of feudalism. There is no consensus on the precise definition nor on how the term should be used as a historical category...

 values, as well as for their strong characterizations of modern working women.

He has been honored by the U.S. Postal Service
United States Postal Service
The United States Postal Service is an independent agency of the United States government responsible for providing postal service in the United States...

 with a Great Americans series
Great Americans series
The Great Americans series is a set of definitive stamps issued by the United States Postal Service, starting on December 27, 1980 with the 19¢ stamp depicting Sequoyah, and continuing through 2002, the final stamp being the 78¢ Alice Paul self-adhesive stamp. The series, noted for its simplicity...

 postage stamp
Postage stamp
A postage stamp is a small piece of paper that is purchased and displayed on an item of mail as evidence of payment of postage. Typically, stamps are made from special paper, with a national designation and denomination on the face, and a gum adhesive on the reverse side...

.

Childhood and education

Born in the village of Sauk Centre
Sauk Centre, Minnesota
As of the census of 2000, there were 3,930 people, 1,616 households, and 1,042 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,057.2 people per square mile . There were 1,709 housing units at an average density of 459.7 per square mile...

, Minnesota
Minnesota
Minnesota is a U.S. state located in the Midwestern United States. The twelfth largest state of the U.S., it is the twenty-first most populous, with 5.3 million residents. Minnesota was carved out of the eastern half of the Minnesota Territory and admitted to the Union as the thirty-second state...

, Lewis began reading books at a young age and kept a diary. He had two siblings, Fred (born 1875) and Claude (born 1878). His father, Edwin J. Lewis, was a physician and a stern disciplinarian who had difficulty relating to his sensitive, unathletic third son. Lewis's mother, Emma Kermott Lewis, died in 1891. The following year, Edwin Lewis married Isabel Warner, whose company young Lewis apparently enjoyed. Throughout his lonely boyhood, the ungainly Lewis — tall, extremely thin, stricken with acne
Acne
Acne is a general term used for acneiform eruptions. It is usually used as a synonym for acne vulgaris, but may also refer to:*Acne aestivalis*Acne conglobata*Acne cosmetica*Acne fulminans*Acne keloidalis nuchae*Acne mechanica...

 and somewhat popeyed — had trouble gaining friends and pined after various local girls. At the age of 13 he unsuccessfully ran away from home, wanting to become a drummer boy in the Spanish-American War
Spanish-American War
The Spanish–American War was a conflict in 1898 between Spain and the United States, effectively the result of American intervention in the ongoing Cuban War of Independence...

.
In late 1902 Lewis left home for a year at Oberlin Academy (the then-preparatory department of Oberlin College
Oberlin College
Oberlin College is a private liberal arts college in Oberlin, Ohio, noteworthy for having been the first American institution of higher learning to regularly admit female and black students. Connected to the college is the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, the oldest continuously operating...

) to qualify for acceptance by Yale University
Yale University
Yale University is a private, Ivy League university located in New Haven, Connecticut, United States. Founded in 1701 in the Colony of Connecticut, the university is the third-oldest institution of higher education in the United States...

. While at Oberlin, he developed a religious enthusiasm that waxed and waned for much of his remaining teenage years. He entered Yale in 1903 but did not receive his bachelor's degree
Bachelor's degree
A bachelor's degree is usually an academic degree awarded for an undergraduate course or major that generally lasts for three or four years, but can range anywhere from two to six years depending on the region of the world...

 until 1908, having taken time off to work at Helicon Home Colony
Helicon Home Colony
Helicon Home Colony was an experimental community formed by author Upton Sinclair in Englewood, New Jersey, United States, with proceeds from his novel The Jungle. Established in 1906, it burned down in 1907 and was disbanded....

, Upton Sinclair
Upton Sinclair
Upton Beall Sinclair Jr. , was an American author who wrote close to one hundred books in many genres. He achieved popularity in the first half of the twentieth century, acquiring particular fame for his classic muckraking novel, The Jungle . It exposed conditions in the U.S...

's cooperative
Housing cooperative
A housing cooperative is a legal entity—usually a corporation—that owns real estate, consisting of one or more residential buildings. Each shareholder in the legal entity is granted the right to occupy one housing unit, sometimes subject to an occupancy agreement, which is similar to a lease. ...

-living colony in Englewood
Englewood, New Jersey
Englewood is a city located in Bergen County, New Jersey. As of the 2010 United States Census, the city had a total population of 27,147.Englewood was incorporated as a city by an Act of the New Jersey Legislature on March 17, 1899, from portions of Ridgefield Township and the remaining portions of...

, New Jersey
New Jersey
New Jersey is a state in the Northeastern and Middle Atlantic regions of the United States. , its population was 8,791,894. It is bordered on the north and east by the state of New York, on the southeast and south by the Atlantic Ocean, on the west by Pennsylvania and on the southwest by Delaware...

, and to travel to Panama
Panama
Panama , officially the Republic of Panama , is the southernmost country of Central America. Situated on the isthmus connecting North and South America, it is bordered by Costa Rica to the northwest, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean Sea to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south. The...

. Lewis's unprepossessing looks, "fresh" country manners and seemingly self-important loquacity made it difficult for him to win and keep friends at Oberlin and Yale. He did initiate a few relatively long-lived friendships among students and professors, some of whom recognized his promise as a writer.

Early career

Lewis's earliest published creative work—romantic poetry and short sketches—appeared in the Yale Courant and the Yale Literary Magazine
Yale Literary Magazine
The Yale Literary Magazine, founded in 1836, is the oldest literary magazine in the United States and publishes poetry and fiction by Yale undergraduates twice per academic year.The magazine is published biannually...

, of which he became an editor. After graduation Lewis moved from job to job and from place to place in an effort to make ends meet, write fiction for publication and to chase away boredom. While working for newspapers and publishing houses (and for a time at the Carmel-by-the-Sea
Carmel-by-the-Sea, California
Carmel-by-the-Sea, often called simply Carmel, is a small city in Monterey County, California, United States, founded in 1902 and incorporated in 1916. Situated on the Monterey Peninsula, the town is known for its natural scenery and rich artistic history...

, California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

 writers' colony), he developed a facility for turning out shallow, popular stories that were purchased by a variety of magazines. He also earned money by selling plots to Jack London
Jack London
John Griffith "Jack" London was an American author, journalist, and social activist. He was a pioneer in the then-burgeoning world of commercial magazine fiction and was one of the first fiction writers to obtain worldwide celebrity and a large fortune from his fiction alone...

, including one for the latter's unfinished novel The Assassination Bureau, Ltd
The Assassination Bureau, Ltd
The Assassination Bureau, Ltd is a thriller novel, begun by Jack London and finished after his death by Robert L. Fish. It was published in 1963...

.

Lewis's first published book was Hike and the Aeroplane, a Tom Swift
Tom Swift
Tom Swift is the name of the central character in five series of books, first appearing in 1910, totaling over 100 volumes, of American juvenile science fiction and adventure novels that emphasize science, invention and technology. The character was created by Edward Stratemeyer, the founder of...

-style potboiler
Potboiler
Potboiler or pot-boiler is a term used to describe a poor quality novel, play, opera, or film, or other creative work that was created quickly to make money to pay for the creator's daily expenses . Authors who create potboiler novels or screenplays are sometimes called hack writers...

 that appeared in 1912 under the pseudonym Tom Graham.

Sinclair Lewis's first serious novel, Our Mr. Wrenn: The Romantic Adventures of a Gentle Man, appeared in 1914, followed by The Trail of the Hawk: A Comedy of the Seriousness of Life (1915) and The Job
The Job (1917 novel)
The Job is an early work by American novelist Sinclair Lewis. It is considered an early declaration of the rights of working women. The focus is on the main character, Una Golden, desire to establish herself in a legitimate occupation while balancing the eventual need for marriage...

 (1917). That same year also saw the publication of another potboiler, The Innocents: A Story for Lovers, an expanded version of a serial
Serial (literature)
In literature, a serial is a publishing format by which a single large work, most often a work of narrative fiction, is presented in contiguous installments—also known as numbers, parts, or fascicles—either issued as separate publications or appearing in sequential issues of a single periodical...

 story that had originally appeared in Woman's Home Companion
Woman's Home Companion
Woman's Home Companion was an American monthly publication, published from 1873 to 1957. It was highly successful, climbing to a circulation peak of more than four million during the 1930s and 1940s....

. Free Air
Free Air
Free Air is a novel written by Sinclair Lewis. A silent movie version of "Free Air" was also released on April 30, 1922. The film starred Tom Douglas as Milt Daggett and Marjorie Seaman as Claire Boltwood.- Plot summary :...

, another refurbished serial story, was published in 1919.

Marriage and family

In 1914 Lewis married Grace Livingston Hegger, an editor at Vogue
Vogue (magazine)
Vogue is a fashion and lifestyle magazine that is published monthly in 18 national and one regional edition by Condé Nast.-History:In 1892 Arthur Turnure founded Vogue as a weekly publication in the United States. When he died in 1909, Condé Montrose Nast picked up the magazine and slowly began...

 magazine. They had one son, Wells Lewis (1917–1944), named after British author H. G. Wells
H. G. Wells
Herbert George Wells was an English author, now best known for his work in the science fiction genre. He was also a prolific writer in many other genres, including contemporary novels, history, politics and social commentary, even writing text books and rules for war games...

. Wells Lewis was killed in action while serving in the U.S. Army in World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

.

Lewis divorced Grace in 1925. On May 14, 1928, he married Dorothy Thompson
Dorothy Thompson
Dorothy Thompson was an American journalist and radio broadcaster, who in 1939 was recognized by Time magazine as the second most influential women in America next to Eleanor Roosevelt...

, a political newspaper columnist. Later in 1928, he and Dorothy purchased a second home in rural Vermont. They had a son, Michael Lewis, in 1930. Their marriage had virtually ended by 1937, and they divorced in 1942. Michael Lewis became an actor, and died in 1975 at age 44.

Commercial success

Upon moving to Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

, Lewis devoted himself to writing. As early as 1916, he began taking notes for a realistic novel about small-town life. Work on that novel continued through mid-1920, when he completed Main Street
Main Street (novel)
- Plot summary :Carol Milford is a liberal, free-spirited young woman, reared in the metropolis of Saint Paul, Minnesota. She marries Will Kennicott, a doctor, who is a small-town boy at heart....

, which was published on October 23, 1920. As his biographer Mark Schorer
Mark Schorer
Mark Schorer was an American writer, critic, and scholar born in Sauk City, Wisconsin.-Biography:Schorer earned an MA at Harvard and his Ph.D. in English at the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1936...

 wrote, the phenomenal success of Main Street "was the most sensational event in twentieth-century American publishing history." Based on sales of his prior books, Lewis's most optimistic projection was a sale of 25,000 copies. In the first six months of 1921, Main Street sold 180,000 copies, and within a few years, sales were estimated at two million. According to Richard Lingeman, "Main Street earned Sinclair Lewis about three million current [2002] dollars".
Lewis followed up this first great success with Babbitt
Babbitt (novel)
Babbitt, first published in 1922, is a novel by Sinclair Lewis. Largely a satire of American culture, society, and behavior, it critiques the vacuity of middle-class American life and its pressure on individuals toward conformity....

 (1922), a novel that satirized the American commercial culture and boosterism
Boosterism
Boosterism is the act of "boosting," or promoting, one's town, city, or organization, with the goal of improving public perception of it. Boosting can be as simple as "talking up" the entity at a party or as elaborate as establishing a visitors' bureau. It is somewhat associated with American small...

. The story was set in the fictional Midwestern town of Zenith, Winnemac, a setting to which Lewis would return in future novels, including Gideon Planish
Gideon Planish
Gideon Planish is a 1943 novel by American writer Sinclair Lewis. The novel tells the story of Gideon Planish, an unprincipled social climber who becomes involved in various shady philanthropic organizations in his quest for stature without accountability...

 and Dodsworth
Dodsworth
Dodsworth is a satirical novel by American writer Sinclair Lewis first published by Harcourt Brace & Company in March 1929. Its subject, the differences between US and European intellect, manners, and morals, is one that frequently appears in the works of Henry James.-Plot summary:Samual 'Sam'...

.

Lewis continued his success in the 1920s with Arrowsmith
Arrowsmith (novel)
Arrowsmith is a novel by American author and playwright Sinclair Lewis that was published in 1925. It won the 1926 Pulitzer Prize for Lewis but he refused to accept it. Lewis was greatly assisted in its preparation by science writer Dr. Paul de Kruif, who received 25% of the royalties on sales, but...

 (1925), a novel about the challenges faced by an idealistic doctor. It was awarded the Pulitzer Prize
Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
The Pulitzer Prize for Fiction has been awarded for distinguished fiction by an American author, preferably dealing with American life. It originated as the Pulitzer Prize for the Novel, which was awarded between 1918 and 1947.-1910s:...

 (which Lewis refused). Adapted as a 1931 Hollywood film
Arrowsmith (film)
Arrowsmith is a 1931 film nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. It was written by Sidney Howard from the Sinclair Lewis novel Arrowsmith, and directed by John Ford.-Plot:...

 directed by John Ford
John Ford
John Ford was an American film director. He was famous for both his westerns such as Stagecoach, The Searchers, and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, and adaptations of such classic 20th-century American novels as The Grapes of Wrath...

 and starring Ronald Colman
Ronald Colman
Ronald Charles Colman was an English actor.-Early years:He was born in Richmond, Surrey, England, the second son and fourth child of Charles Colman and his wife Marjory Read Fraser. His siblings included Eric, Edith, and Marjorie. He was educated at boarding school in Littlehampton, where he...

, it was nominated for four Academy Awards.

Next Lewis published Elmer Gantry
Elmer Gantry
Elmer Gantry is a satirical novel written by Sinclair Lewis in 1926 and published by Harcourt in March 1927.-Background:Lewis did research for the novel by observing the work of various preachers in Kansas City in his so-called "Sunday School" meetings on Wednesdays. He first worked with William L...

 (1927), which depicted an evangelical
Evangelicalism
Evangelicalism is a Protestant Christian movement which began in Great Britain in the 1730s and gained popularity in the United States during the series of Great Awakenings of the 18th and 19th century.Its key commitments are:...

 minister as deeply hypocritical. The novel was denounced by many religious leaders and banned in some U.S. cities. Adapted for the screen
Elmer Gantry (film)
Elmer Gantry is a 1960 drama film about a con man and a female evangelist selling religion to small town America. Adapted by director Richard Brooks, the film is based on the 1927 novel of the same name by Sinclair Lewis and stars Burt Lancaster and Jean Simmons.Lancaster won an Academy Award for...

 more than a generation later, the novel was the basis of the 1960 movie starring Burt Lancaster
Burt Lancaster
Burton Stephen "Burt" Lancaster was an American film actor noted for his athletic physique and distinctive smile...

, who earned a Best Actor
Academy Award for Best Actor
Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role is one of the Academy Awards of Merit presented annually by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to recognize an actor who has delivered an outstanding performance while working within the film industry...

 Oscar for his performance.

Lewis closed out the decade with Dodsworth
Dodsworth
Dodsworth is a satirical novel by American writer Sinclair Lewis first published by Harcourt Brace & Company in March 1929. Its subject, the differences between US and European intellect, manners, and morals, is one that frequently appears in the works of Henry James.-Plot summary:Samual 'Sam'...

 (1929), a novel about the most affluent and successful members of American society. He portrayed them as leading essentially pointless lives in spite of great wealth and advantages. The book was adapted for the Broadway
Broadway theatre
Broadway theatre, commonly called simply Broadway, refers to theatrical performances presented in one of the 40 professional theatres with 500 or more seats located in the Theatre District centered along Broadway, and in Lincoln Center, in Manhattan in New York City...

 stage in 1934 by Sidney Howard
Sidney Howard
Sidney Coe Howard was an American playwright and screenwriter. He received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1925 and a posthumous Academy Award in 1940 for the screenplay for Gone with the Wind.-Early life:...

, who also wrote the screenplay for the 1936 film version. Directed by William Wyler
William Wyler
William Wyler was a leading American motion picture director, producer, and screenwriter.Notable works included Ben-Hur , The Best Years of Our Lives , and Mrs. Miniver , all of which won Wyler Academy Awards for Best Director, and also won Best Picture...

 and a great success at the time, the film is still highly regarded. In 1990, it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry, and in 2005 Time
Time (magazine)
Time is an American news magazine. A European edition is published from London. Time Europe covers the Middle East, Africa and, since 2003, Latin America. An Asian edition is based in Hong Kong...

 magazine named it one of the "100 Best Movies" of the past 80 years.

During the late 1920s and 1930s, Lewis wrote many short stories for a variety of magazines and publications. "Little Bear Bongo" (1936), a tale about a bear cub who wanted to escape the circus in search of a better life in the real world, was published in Cosmopolitan
Cosmopolitan (magazine)
Cosmopolitan is an international magazine for women. It was first published in 1886 in the United States as a family magazine, was later transformed into a literary magazine and eventually became a women's magazine in the late 1960s...

 magazine. The story was acquired by Walt Disney Pictures
Walt Disney Pictures
Walt Disney Pictures is an American film studio owned by The Walt Disney Company. Walt Disney Pictures and Television, a subsidiary of the Walt Disney Studios and the main production company for live-action feature films within the Walt Disney Motion Pictures Group, based at the Walt Disney...

 in 1940 for a possible feature film. World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 sidetracked those plans until 1947. Disney used the story (now titled "Bongo") as part of its feature Fun and Fancy Free
Fun and Fancy Free
Fun and Fancy Free is a 1947 animated feature produced by Walt Disney and released by RKO Radio Pictures on September 27, 1947. It was one of the "package films" that the studio produced in the 1940s...

.

Alcoholism

After an alcoholic binge in 1937, Lewis checked into the Austen Riggs Center
Austen Riggs Center
The Austen Riggs Center is a psychiatric treatment facility founded in 1913 in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.-Founding – 1946:A New York City internist who repaired to the bucolic countryside of Stockbridge while suffering from tuberculosis, Austen Fox Riggs developed an innovative treatment regimen...

, a psychiatric hospital in Stockbridge, Massachusetts
Stockbridge, Massachusetts
Stockbridge is a town in Berkshire County in Western Massachusetts. It is part of the Pittsfield, Massachusetts, Metropolitan Statistical Area. The population was 1,947 at the 2010 census...

 for treatment. His doctors gave Lewis a blunt assessment that he needed to decide "whether he was going to live without alcohol or die by it, one or the other." Lewis checked out after 10 days, lacking, one of his physicians wrote to a colleague, any "fundamental understanding of his problem."

Nobel Prize

In 1930, Lewis won the Nobel Prize in Literature
Nobel Prize in Literature
Since 1901, the Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded annually to an author from any country who has, in the words from the will of Alfred Nobel, produced "in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction"...

, the first writer from the United States to receive the award. In the Swedish Academy's
Swedish Academy
The Swedish Academy , founded in 1786 by King Gustav III, is one of the Royal Academies of Sweden.-History:The Swedish Academy was founded in 1786 by King Gustav III. Modelled after the Académie française, it has 18 members. The motto of the Academy is "Talent and Taste"...

 presentation speech, special attention was paid to Babbitt
Babbitt (novel)
Babbitt, first published in 1922, is a novel by Sinclair Lewis. Largely a satire of American culture, society, and behavior, it critiques the vacuity of middle-class American life and its pressure on individuals toward conformity....

. In his Nobel Lecture, Lewis praised Theodore Dreiser
Theodore Dreiser
Theodore Herman Albert Dreiser was an American novelist and journalist of the naturalist school. His novels often featured main characters who succeeded at their objectives despite a lack of a firm moral code, and literary situations that more closely resemble studies of nature than tales of...

, Willa Cather
Willa Cather
Willa Seibert Cather was an American author who achieved recognition for her novels of frontier life on the Great Plains, in works such as O Pioneers!, My Ántonia, and The Song of the Lark. In 1923 she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for One of Ours , a novel set during World War I...

, Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Miller Hemingway was an American author and journalist. His economic and understated style had a strong influence on 20th-century fiction, while his life of adventure and his public image influenced later generations. Hemingway produced most of his work between the mid-1920s and the...

, and other contemporaries, but also lamented that "in America most of us — not readers alone, but even writers — are still afraid of any literature which is not a glorification of everything American, a glorification of our faults as well as our virtues," and that America is "the most contradictory, the most depressing, the most stirring, of any land in the world today." He also offered a profound criticism of the American literary establishment: "Our American professors like their literature clear and cold and pure and very dead."

Later years

After winning the Nobel Prize, Lewis wrote eleven more novels, ten of which appeared in his lifetime. The best remembered is It Can't Happen Here
It Can't Happen Here
It Can't Happen Here is a semi-satirical American political novel by Sinclair Lewis published in 1935 by Doubleday, Doran. It describes the rise of a populist politician who calls his movement "patriotic" and creates his own militia and takes unconstitutional power after winning election —...

, a novel about the election of a fascist to the American presidency.

Kingsblood Royal (1947) is set in the fictional city Grand Republic, Minnesota, an enlarged and updated version of Zenith. Based on the Sweet Affair in Chicago
Chicago
Chicago is the largest city in the US state of Illinois. With nearly 2.7 million residents, it is the most populous city in the Midwestern United States and the third most populous in the US, after New York City and Los Angeles...

, in which an African-American doctor was denied the chance to purchase a house in a "white" section of the city, Kingsblood Royal was a powerful and very early contribution to the civil rights movement
Civil rights movement
The civil rights movement was a worldwide political movement for equality before the law occurring between approximately 1950 and 1980. In many situations it took the form of campaigns of civil resistance aimed at achieving change by nonviolent forms of resistance. In some situations it was...

.

Lewis died in Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

 on January 10, 1951, aged 65, from advanced alcoholism
Alcoholism
Alcoholism is a broad term for problems with alcohol, and is generally used to mean compulsive and uncontrolled consumption of alcoholic beverages, usually to the detriment of the drinker's health, personal relationships, and social standing...

. His cremated remains were buried in Sauk Centre. A final novel, World So Wide (1951), was published posthumously.

William Shirer, a friend and admirer of Lewis, disputes accounts that Lewis died of alcoholism per se. He reported that Lewis had a heart attack and that his doctors advised him to stop drinking if he wanted to live. Lewis did not, and perhaps could not, stop; he died when his heart stopped.

In summing up Lewis' career, Shirer concludes, "It has become rather commonplace for so-called literary critics to write off Sinclair Lewis as a novelist. Compared to...Fitzgerald
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald was an American author of novels and short stories, whose works are the paradigm writings of the Jazz Age, a term he coined himself. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century. Fitzgerald is considered a member of the "Lost...

, Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Miller Hemingway was an American author and journalist. His economic and understated style had a strong influence on 20th-century fiction, while his life of adventure and his public image influenced later generations. Hemingway produced most of his work between the mid-1920s and the...

, Dos Passos
John Dos Passos
John Roderigo Dos Passos was an American novelist and artist.-Early life:Born in Chicago, Illinois, Dos Passos was the illegitimate son of John Randolph Dos Passos , a distinguished lawyer of Madeiran Portuguese descent, and Lucy Addison Sprigg Madison of Petersburg, Virginia. The elder Dos Passos...

, and Faulkner
William Faulkner
William Cuthbert Faulkner was an American writer from Oxford, Mississippi. Faulkner worked in a variety of media; he wrote novels, short stories, a play, poetry, essays and screenplays during his career...

...Lewis lacked style. Yet his impact on modern American life...was greater than all of the other four writers together."

Parodies and Satires

In The New Yorker
The New Yorker
The New Yorker is an American magazine of reportage, commentary, criticism, essays, fiction, satire, cartoons and poetry published by Condé Nast...

, Wolcott Gibbs
Wolcott Gibbs
Wolcott Gibbs was an American editor, humorist, theatre critic, playwright and author of short stories, who worked for The New Yorker magazine from 1927 until his death. He is best remembered for his 1936 parody of Time magazine, which skewered the magazine's inverted narrative structure...

 once published a spoof of Lewis' novel Cass Timberlane
Cass Timberlane
Cass Timberlane is a novel written by Sinclair Lewis, published in 1945. It is Sinclair Lewis' nineteenth novel and one of his last.It was made into a romantic drama film starring Spencer Tracy and Lana Turner, directed by George Sidney, and released in 1947.Timberlane is a minor character in...

 which he titled "Shad Ampersand."

Further reading

  • Lingeman, Richard ed. Sinclair Lewis: Main Street & Babbitt (Library of America
    Library of America
    The Library of America is a nonprofit publisher of classic American literature.- Overview and history :Founded in 1979 with seed money from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Ford Foundation, the LoA has published over 200 volumes by a wide range of authors from Mark Twain to Philip...

    , 1992) ISBN 978-0-940450-61-5
  • Lingeman, Richard ed. Sinclair Lewis: Arrowsmith, Elmer Gantry, Dodsworth (Library of America, 2002) ISBN 978-1-931082-08-2
  • D. J. Dooley, The Art of Sinclair Lewis, 1967.
  • Martin Light
    Martin Light
    Martin Light is a subdivision of the Danish company Martin Professional. Martin Professional is a producer and distributor of computer controlled lighting, also called "intelligent lighting", high technology luminaries utilized throughout all sectors of the entertainment industry...

    , The Quixotic Vision of Sinclair Lewis, 1975.
  • Modern Fiction Studies, vol. 31.3, Autumn 1985, special issues on Sinclair Lewis.
  • Sinclair Lewis at 100: Papers Presented at a Centennial Conference, 1985.
  • Martin Bucco, Main Street: The Revolt of Carol Kennicott, 1993.
  • James M. Hutchisson, The Rise of Sinclair Lewis, 1920–1930, 1996.
  • Glen A. Love, Babbitt: An American Life
  • Stephen R. Pastore, Sinclair Lewis: A Descriptive Bibliography, 1997.
  • Stephen R. Pastore, Sinclair Lewis: A Descriptive Bibliography, 2d ed. 2009.

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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