Sinclair Lewis

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Winning Nomination

Main Street, Sinclair Lewis's 1920 breakaway novel, was initially criticized for taking aim at the small-town status quo and its values. Not to mention, its setting of Gopher Prairie is widely said to be a thinly veiled Sauk Centre, Lewis's hometown. Main Street is perhaps one of modern American literature's rarest gems. I say this without hesitation, especially because of the frankness and freshness with which Lewis paints a picture of small-town America's reluctance to accept change, especially coming from outsiders from the big city.
~Larry Ellis Reed, Winona, MN



Runner-up Nominations

First American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. Born in Sauk Centre. Main Street.
~Margaret Sullivan, Stony Brook, NY

Sinclair Lewis not only put Gopher Prairie on the map but the whole Midwestern culture. He writes of the prejudices, poverty and struggles of a country trying to grow up using the phrases of the time. He won both the Pulitzer and Nobel prize for literature.
~Gayle Watland, Maplewood, MN

A Sauk Centre native, was the first American author to receive the Nobel prize for Literature. He had written a series of novels, including Main Street, Babbitt, Elmer Gantry, and others, 24 in all. He changed American literature for all time, with his photographic style of description, and his chosen social issue topics.
~Roberta Olson, Sauk Centre, MN


Contents

History

(1885-1951)

Small-town Minnesota's most subversive native son

Babbitt, noun [George F. Babbitt, character in the novel Babbitt (1922) by Sinclair Lewis]: a person and especially a business or professional man who conforms unthinkingly to prevailing middle-class standards.

It's not often that a novelist's characterizations are so sharp and well defined that new words are added to the dictionary because of them. But Sinclair Lewis was no ordinary novelist—he was a social critic who saw himself as a rebel against the constraints of American institutions and prejudice.

Lewis was born in Sauk Centre, Minnesota, in 1885. He attended Yale University, earning a bachelor's degree in 1908, and held several jobs with publishing companies and magazines. A prolific writer, he could complete a novel in a month and tried to publish at least one every year. He became famous when Main Street, a satirical account of a small town modeled on Sauk Centre, was published in 1920 and soon became a best seller. It was followed by Babbitt in 1922 and a number of other widely popular novels, including Arrowsmith (1925), which won a Pulitzer Prize that Lewis declined, Elmer Gantry (1927), and Dodsworth (1929).

Sinclair Lewis became the first American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, in 1930. As the story goes, Lewis answered the telephone the morning the news broke, and heard an excited man with an accent announcing that the prize was his. The caller was a Swedish newspaper correspondent, but Lewis thought it was one of his friends making a crank call. He mocked the caller, who finally hung up and asked an American friend to call Lewis instead. Once the news sunk in, Lewis was overwhelmed. Breathing heavily and somewhat dazed, he called his wife, who thought he was ill and asked him what was wrong. "Dorothy, I've got the Nobel Prize," he shouted. "Oh, have you? How nice for you," answered his skeptical wife. "Well, I have the Order of the Garter!"

"Sinclair Lewis's 1920 breakaway novel [Main Street], initially criticized for taking aim at the small-town status quo, is perhaps one of modern American literature's rarest gems. I say this without hesitation, especially because of the frankness and freshness with which Lewis paints a picture of small-town America's reluctance to accept change, especially coming from outsiders from the big city."
Nominator Larry Ellis Reed, Winona Minnesota

Resource Links

Sinclair Lewis - Autobiography

Sinclair Lewis - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Sinclair Lewis Society Home Page

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    Sinclair Lewis childhood home

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