Thursday, February 7, 2008
Happy Birthday Sinclair Lewis
Today is also the birthday of Sinclair Lewis, born in Sauk Centre, Minnesota, in 1885. Lewis is known for his novels Main Street, Babbitt, Elmer Gantry and It Can't Happen Here, and was America's first Nobel Prize winner in literature. He was recommended for the 1921 Pulitzer Prize for Main Street, but the trustees of the prize awarded it to Edith Wharton for The Age of Innocence instead. A few years later, Lewis turned down the Pulitzer for his novel Arrowsmith. I visited Sauk Centre a few years ago. I had a peak at Lewis's boyhood home, had a beer at the Palmer House Hotel (where Lewis was fired from his first job), and stayed in the Gopher Prairie Motel. An account of that visit went into my essay "Sinclair Lewis's Work of Art," published in the New England Review in 2004 (volume 25, number 3). For an excellent biography of Sinclair Lewis, check out Richard Lingeman's Sinclair Lewis: Rebel from Main Street.