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Library of America Sinclair Lewis Edition

Sinclair Lewis
Sinclair Lewis: Main Street and Babbitt (LOA #59) by Sinclair Lewis
Sinclair Lewis: Arrowsmith, Elmer Gantry, Dodsworth (LOA #133) by Sinclair Lewis

Library of America Sinclair Lewis Edition : Titles in Order

Book 2
Written at the height of his powers, the three novels included in this Library of America volume continue the vigorous unmasking of the pretenses and hypocrisies of American middle-class life that Sinclair Lewis began in Main Street and Babbitt. The social sweep and descriptive power of Lewis’s fiction earned him international recognition as a chronicler of his times, and in 1930 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, the first American thus honored.

In Arrowsmith (1925), Lewis portrays the medical education and career of Martin Arrowsmith, a physician who finds his commitment to the ideals of his profession tested by the greed and opportunism he encounters in private practice, public health work, and scientific research. The novel reaches its climax as its hero faces his greatest medical and moral challenges amid a deadly outbreak of plague on a Caribbean island. Arrowsmith was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, which Lewis refused to accept.

Elmer Gantry (1927) aroused intense controversy with its brutal depiction of a hypocritical preacher in relentless pursuit of worldly pleasure and power. Through his satiric examination of evangelical religion, Lewis captures the growing cultural and political tension during the 1920s between the forces of secularism and fundamentalism. Gantry, with his glib eloquence and behind-the-scenes self-indulgence, has become an archetypal figure in American culture.

Dodsworth (1929) follows Sam Dodsworth, a wealthy retired Midwestern automobile manufacturer, as he travels through England, France, Germany, and Italy with his increasingly restless wife, Fran. The novel intimately explores the unraveling of their marriage while pitting the proud heritage of European high culture against the rude strength of ascendant American commercialism.

LIBRARY OF AMERICA is an independent nonprofit cultural organization founded in 1979 to preserve our nation’s literary heritage by publishing, and keeping permanently in print, America’s best and most significant writing. The Library of America series includes more than 300 volumes to date, authoritative editions that average 1,000 pages in length, feature cloth covers, sewn bindings, and ribbon markers, and are printed on premium acid-free paper that will last for centuries.
Book 1
In Main Street and Babbitt, Sinclair Lewis drew on his boyhood memories of Sauk Centre, Minnesota, to reveal as no writer had done before the complacency and conformity of middle-class life in America. The remarkable novels presented here in this Library of America volume combine brilliant satire with a lingering affection for the men and women, who, as Lewis wrote of Babbitt, “want “to seize something more than motor cars and a house before it’s too late.”

Main Street (1920), Lewis’s first triumph, was a phenomenal event in American publishing and cultural history. Lewis’s idealistic, imaginative heroine, Carol Kennicott, “longs to get [her] hands on one of those prairie towns and make it beautiful,” but when her doctor husband brings her to Gopher Prairie, she finds that the romance of the American frontier has dwindled to the drab reality of the American Middle West. The great romantic satire of its decade, Main Street is a wry, sad, funny account of a woman who attempts to challenge the hypocrisy and narrow-mindedness of her community.

In the character of George F. Babbitt, the boisterous, vulgar, worried, gadget-loving real estate man from Zenith, Lewis fashioned a new and enduring figure in American literature—the total conformist. Babbitt is a “joiner,” who thinks and feels with the crowd. Lewis surrounds him with a gallery of familiar American types—small businessman, Rotarians, Elks, boosters, supporters of evangelical Christianity. In biting satirical scenes of club lunches, after-dinner speeches, trade association conventions, fishing trips and Sunday School committees, Lewis reproduces the noisy restlessness of American commercial culture.

In 1930 Sinclair Lewis was the first American to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, largely for his achievement in Babbitt. These early novels not only define a crucial period in American history—from America’’s “coming of age” just before World War I to the dizzying boom of the twenties—they also continue to astonish us with essential truths about the country we live in today.

LIBRARY OF AMERICA is an independent nonprofit cultural organization founded in 1979 to preserve our nation’s literary heritage by publishing, and keeping permanently in print, America’s best and most significant writing. The Library of America series includes more than 300 volumes to date, authoritative editions that average 1,000 pages in length, feature cloth covers, sewn bindings, and ribbon markers, and are printed on premium acid-free paper that will last for centuries.

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