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Sinclair Lewis (University of Minnesota Pamphlets on American Writers Number. 27) ePub download

by Mark Schorer

  • Author: Mark Schorer
  • ISBN: 0816602905
  • ISBN13: 978-0816602902
  • ePub: 1457 kb | FB2: 1999 kb
  • Language: English
  • Category: Arts & Literature
  • Publisher: University of Minnesota Press; 1st edition (April 25, 1963)
  • Pages: 47
  • Rating: 4.2/5
  • Votes: 886
  • Format: mobi txt txt rtf
Sinclair Lewis (University of Minnesota Pamphlets on American Writers Number. 27) ePub download

Sinclair Lewis (University of Minnesota Pamphlets on American Writers Number.

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Sinclair Lewis - American Writers 27 was first published in 1963

Sinclair Lewis - American Writers 27 was first published in 1963. Published April 25th 1963 by University of Minnesota Press (first published 1963). Sinclair Lewis (University of Minnesota Pamphlets on American Writers 27). ISBN. 0816602905 (ISBN13: 9780816602902).

University of Minnesota Pamphlets on American Writers. Author: Mark Schorer. Literature, American Studies, Literature. Mark Schorer was professor of English in the University of California, Berkeley and the author of three novels, many short stories, some works of literary criticism, and a biography of Sinclair Lewis.

Sinclair Lewis - American Writers 27was first published in 1963. eISBN: 978-0-8166-5230-3. You are viewing the table of contents.

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Pamphlets on American Writers Publisher: University of Minnesota Press. Arranged by serial number

University of Minnesota Pamphlets on American Writers Publisher: University of Minnesota Press. Country: United States. Arranged by serial number. 1. Ernest Hemingway 2. Robert Frost 3. William Faulkner 4. Henry James 5. Mark Twain 6. Thomas Wolfe 7. Recent American Drama 8. T. S. Eliot 9. Walt Whitman 10.

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Harry Sinclair Lewis (February 7, 1885 – January 10, 1951) was an American novelist, short-story writer and playwright. In 1930, he became the first writer from the United States (and the first from the Americas) to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature, which was awarded "for his vigorous and graphic art of description and his ability to create, with wit and humor, new types of characters.

Sinclair Lewis - American Writers 27 : University of Minnesota Pamphlets on American Writers. Sinclair Lewis - American Writers 27 was first published in 1963

Sinclair Lewis - American Writers 27 : University of Minnesota Pamphlets on American Writers. Sinclair Lewis - American Writers 27 was first published in 1963.

Sinclair Lewis - American Writers 27 was first published in 1963. Minnesota Archive Editions uses digital technology to make long-unavailable books once again accessible, and are published unaltered from the original University of Minnesota Press editions.

When a biographer takes on a difficult or problematic subject, it is usually expected that he will show some sympathy for his subject. SINCLAIR LEWIS: AN AMERICAN LIFE was the "flagship" of Sinclair Lewis biographies for four decades from the book's release in 1961, until the publication of Richard Lingeman's SINCLAIR LEWIS: REBEL FROM MAIN STREET in 2002. However, Mark Schorer's earlier biography, while thorough, is less than sympathetic. Some of Schorer's opinions come perilously close to "blaming the victim," as in his opining that Sinclair Lewis would have been much happier at liberal Harvard than more conservative Yale, at that time a feeder for the professional class of New York. But that is of little import, as Lingeman's better-researched bio shows that Lewis's physician father had his son specifically prepped for Yale, and young Harry Sinclair Lewis had not a great deal of choice in the matter.

Since most of us will want to read only one large biography of the gadfly author/activist who wrote some of the best-selling novels of the 1920s, the obvious choice today is Lingeman's REBEL FROM MAIN STREET.
Some say Sinclair Lewis' talent declined with every major work of his in the '20s. Certainly, Mark Schorer's 1961 biography, a decade after Lewis' death, promoted this argument. It helped diminish the already fading legacy of this chronicler of Americana. Like John Dos Passos' "contemporary chronicles," Lewis heard the post-WWI era and transcribed it vividly, full of detail, but so much that it threatened to overwhelm its message, as the medium dominated by its massive, rapid, chattering, and certainly frenetic pace. Both outlived early success. Lewis seems nearly as ignored by many today as "Dos."

As for me, I like this sociological strain in lit despite its flaws. Schorer locates in Lewis' first novel (1914) his characteristic contribution: romantic as it looked backwards, a "coy sentimentality" that crept into the naturalism and realism that he pursued archly but with an underlying unease. Melodrama played off unsparingly imitated American speech, pop culture contending with idealism.

By thirty-five, before "Main Street" sent him skyrocketing, this prolific plot spinner's stories betrayed contrivance and fixation: "The audience he was addressing demanded the explicit, the demonstrated, the heavily documented, the overdrawn and the broad. The style, like the man, was made." (241)

It made him a millionaire many times over. Philandering, scoffing, a bore, a scold, he defied his critics and proclaimed his genius to all. He continued to live out of hotels or with friends, but he kept moving as he promoted himself for a Pulitzer (and after "Babbitt" was passed over, he wished to get it for "Arrowsmith" so he could then turn it down) or Nobel. He continued to pile up floor plans, indices, jargon, consultants, and collaborators to assist him with his busy dramatizations of realtors, bacteriologists, preachers, and manufacturers. Schorer post-"Arrowsmith" sums up Lewis, monocled and spat-wearing, at his '20s peak: "Attacking materialism, he doubled his bank account." (415)

Even with that third novelistic success, Lewis knew the run wouldn't last. He confided that "Babbitt" was what he'd be best known by and that "Arrowsmith" remained his favorite. "Elmer Gantry" gave another title to the demotic, but the predictable immersion in research, Schorer avers, resulted only in another static plot: the trap of detail that confirmed only what Lewis wished it to. By "Dodsworth," its European setting shared Lewis' own aspirations to a parody of his rambling, part-poetic, part-satirical, yet mechanical and imperfectly plotted evocations of success. A success he, as "The Nation" summed up in 1927, craved as "proletarian plutocrat, bourgeois gypsy, patriotic expatriate, unmannerly critic of manners, and loud-speaking champion of the subdued voice." (qtd. 483)

With the Nobel Prize won in 1930, Lewis felt the long slide down. His drinking, the failure of two marriages due to his peripatetic infidelity, his inability to settle down and leave behind his cruel gifts of unedited imitation and louche garrulousness, his derision, his self-lacerating moments: it wore him down, and wears us down. Schorer shows how Lewis struggled to capture the downside, the fate of labor in the Depression, a topic that predated it and that he'd longed to write about, but he failed. Did "It Can't Happen Here" (see my review in Aug. 2012) channeled some of his heartfelt passion for common folks into his last bestseller?

Lewis dismissed this chart-topper, even if he kept writing. Two years later, he met a seventeen-year old amateur actress, and he fell in love. Even if Marcella Powers' hold over him did not keep him from letting her arrange liaisons with men closer to her age than the fifty-something celebrity, he managed to find contentment for a while, and with her mother as a companion-housekeeper now and then. He courted conventionality even as he, like so many American observers, found eventually a vantage point abroad. The second postwar era could not compete with the mores, the slang, the patter he captured of the first. He died after Florentine lassitude in a hospital on the Roman outskirts, of paralysis of the heart.

Schorer places him within the tradition of those who examined social class, the final follower of Thoreau, Whitman, and the early Twain to find a wide audience. Like them, he championed the individual's attempt to break out of routine; the system, society, it seemed, hammered the rebel down. While the "worst writer" in modern American literature, in his biographer's memorable conclusion, Lewis nevertheless sought to remind us of the forces of our nation, and he shaped its literary culture.

The book that looks at Lewis delves into intricate detail, from schoolboy marginalia to often awful poetry, from garrulous letters to colleagues' catty reminiscences. Many call Schorer's biography, nine years in the making, a hatchet job, with a marked distaste for its yammering, bumptious, yearning subject. Certainly, the relentless, obsessive nature of Schorer's quest to know Lewis from his every scribble shows a determination, beyond even scholarly precision, to peer into Lewis' hidden strife.

However, I find sympathy: Schorer as a near native neighbor--from Sauk City WN to match Lewis' Gopher Prairie neé Sauk Centre MN--went to Harvard; Lewis to Yale. His diligent biographer after a Wisconsin Ph.D. then taught at Dartmouth and Harvard before he chaired Berkeley's English Department in the first half of the '60s. This context allows Schorer to enter into Lewis' Ivy League dissidence, his Carmel-by-the-Sea "Hobohemia," New Thought flirtations and "New Masses" rejections after Yale, and their contrasts with a Main Street-oriented outlook looking to the frontier, but pulled East as his American, if indelibly Midwestern no matter where he roamed, predicament. Schorer's correct: early readers of "Main Street" weren't sure if Lewis meant to caricature Carol Kennicott or to praise her, but the novel captures her stasis as much as Doc Will's: both made Lewis.

While Lewis knew every nook of his hometown, he "had never possessed it, nor it him: the result was that he could never really leave it." (10) Mocked as a "Moon-Calf," embodying the gawky, red-headed jape, Lewis represented the lanky literary lumpish farmboy braying in New Haven or Greenwich. In college diaries, he limited his revelations of despair. He scattered seven lean years before his first novel, of cattle-ship voyages, off-on magazine yarns, grunt-level journalism, virginal swooning, gauche flirtation, mooching (Californian bohemians and sponsors, dad), and earnest patronage. Lewis' self-censorship, for Schorer, portends "perhaps the kind of novelist he would become: one who could never be able to project in art the forms of his suffering, one who would never wish to allow--if he could--his writing to confront his subjectivity--if it was there." (56-57)

The nature of that claim, in the dashed qualifiers, shows its hesitancy. I limn more self-awareness in his conflicted characters than Schorer, however exacting his scrutiny of every scrap from Lewis he tracks down, slots, and interprets. His biographer hears "a life of noisy desperation" in this admirer of Thoreau; Clifton Fadiman called Lewis a "Mercutio of the prairies," exhausting in his rhetorical excess. So far, if from more limited reading and that gleaned from some of his most prominent novels' protagonists, I sense sympathy within the satire; Lewis cocked his ear closely, even if he couldn't hear himself as much.
This biography may still be regarded as the standard reference work on Sinclair Lewis, the first American novelist to be awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. Although the book is packed with details, it is not entirely devoid of problems.

There is a lack of perspective, possibly because the book was published within a decade of the author's death. Another factor is that the biographer genuinely seemed to dislike his subject and emphasized his decline as an important writer and his alcoholism. Schorer wrote this book at a time when the conventional wisdom held that Lewis was mediocre at best and hopelessly passe. He seldom varies from that template.

Some of the critiques of Lewis as an individual and an author are true enough, but one gets the feeling from this study that Lewis never enjoyed success, recognition or even a fleeting moment of happiness during his adult life. Thankfully, other subsequent biographers and critics have reappraised the novels of Sinclair Lewis and found that several of the titles merited praise and accolades.

It is true that Lewis never again approached the pinnacle of success that he achieved in the Twenties in the final two decades of his literary career, but how many authors could? Isn't it enough that he managed to have written five exceptional novels, "Main Street," "Babbitt," "Arrowsmith," "Elmer Gantry," and "Dodsworth," in a single decade? Lewis did produce several more bestsellers, but these books did not receive the critical acclaim that the earlier titles did.

Lewis was a keen observer of the American scene, a realist and a humorist. Thank heavens, that he chafed at the bucolic pace of life in Sauk Centre, Minnesota and set out to see the world.
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