About Booth Tarkington: Novels & Stories (LOA #319)
Thomas Mallon and Library of America invite readers to rediscover the Pulitzer Prize-winning novels of a classic American writer on the 150th anniversary of his birth
Much in need of rediscovery today, Booth Tarkington was among the most beloved and widely read writers of his era. In such classic novels as The Magnificent Ambersons and Alice Adams, both winners of the Pulitzer Prize, Tarkington displayed a mastery of realism and an astute, strikingly modern feel for psychology, capturing crucial transformations in our national life as they were manifested in changing social customs and in the very landscape itself, altered irrevocably by industrialization and environmental degradation. Out of Tarkington’s prolific writings novelist and critic Thomas Mallon has selected three works that show Tarkington at his best. The Magnificent Ambersons, inspiration for Orsen Welles’s classic film, is a tour de force study in egoism, depicting the fall from grace of George Minafer, wayward scion of the once-unassailable Amberson family. The titular protagonist of Alice Adams, portrayed unforgettably by Katharine Hepburn in what many consider her finest performance, is one of the great heroines of American literature: like Henry James’s Isabel Archer and the young women of Edith Wharton’s novels, she is a spirited, complicated young woman contronting the limits of her time and place with her own headlong desires. These novels are joined here by the story collection In the Arena: Tales from Political Life, first published in 1905 and then in an expanded edition in 1920. These stories–which exerted influence on Theodore Roosevelt, inspiring perhaps his most famous speech–draw from Tarkington’s political career as a state legislator in Indiana, which lasted briefly but had a profound impact on him. Published to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Tarkington’s birth, Novels and Stories contains the most enduring works of a Hoosier luminary and an estimable chronicler of the American Midwest.
“The estimable Library of America may revive [Tarkington’s] reputation with a hefty placemark in the canon. . . . The Magnificent Ambersons and Alice Adams won Pulitzer Prizes, in 1919 and 1922, a rare double for a single author. One can see why readers devoured them, and . . . one can see why Scott Fitzgerald was influenced by his best sentences. . . .His satirical asides are perfectly modern.” — The Wall Street Journal
“Alice Adams is by far Tarkington’s most accomplished novel—worthy of being compared to Wharton’s The House of Mirth.” — The New Yorker