Sinclair LewisSinclair Lewis
Born Harry Sinclair Lewis on February 7, 1885 in Sauk Centre, Minnesota, he began reading books at a young age and kept a diary. A dreamer, at age 13 he unsuccessfully ran away from home, wanting to become a drummer boy in the Spanish-American War. At first, he produced romantic poetry, then romantic stories about knights and fair ladies. By 1921 he had six novels published .
In 1930, Sinclair Lewis became the first American author to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. The award reflected his ground-breaking work in the 1920s on books such as Main Street, Babbitt, and Arrowsmith. He was also awarded the Pulitzer Prize for 'Arrowsmith', but declined it because he believed that the Pulitzer was meant for books that celebrated American wholesomeness and his novels, which were quite critical, should not be awarded the prize.
Lewis was innovative for giving strong characterization to modern working women and his concern with race. Restless, he traveled a lot and in the 1920s he would spend time with other great artists in the Montparnasse Quarter in Paris, France where he would be photographed by Man Ray.
Alcohol would play a dominant role in his life and he died of the effects of advanced alcoholism on January 10, 1951, in Rome, Italy.
In 2001, his 1920 book, Main Street would be named to the list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century by the editorial board of the American Modern Library.
- 1885 Born in Sauk Centre, Minnesota to Dr. Edwin J. Lewis and Emma Kermott Lewis.
- 1891 Mother dies. Father marries Isabel Warner in 1892.
- 1902 Attends Oberlin Academy in Ohio.
- 1903-1906 Attends Yale University, serves as editor of Literary Magazine, works on cattleboats during two summers.
- 1906 Spends month doing odd jobs at Upton Sinclair's Helicon Hall (utopian community).
- 1906-1908 Works at temporary jobs, graduates Yale in 1908.
- 1908-1915 Travels U.S., works in New York publishing houses.
- 1912 Hike and the Aeroplane published (first book, a boy's adventure story).
- 1914 Marries Grace Hegger. Our Mr.Wrenn published.
- 1917 The Job and The Innocents published. Son, Wells, born.
- 1919 Free Air published.
- 1920 Main Street published, first major commercial success.
- 1922 Babbitt.
- 1925 Arrowsmith.
- 1926 Mantrap. Awarded Pulitzer Prize for Arrowsmith but refuses it. Father dies.
- 1927 Elmer Gantry.
- 1928 The Man Who Knew Coolidge. Divorces Grace Hegger, marries journalist Dorothy Thompson.
- 1929 Dodsworth.
- 1930 Son Michael born. Awarded Nobel Prize in Literature on November 5 (first American to be so honored).
- 1933 Ann Vickers
- 1934 Work of Art. Assists Sidney Howard in adapting Dodsworth to the stage.
- 1935 It Can't Happen Here and Selected Stories.
- 1936-1942 Writes several plays and acts in a few of them.
- 1938 The Prodigal Parents.
- 1940 Bethel Merriday. Teaches briefly at University of Wisconsin.
- 1942 Divorces Dorothy Thompson.
- 1943 Gideon Planish.
- 1944 Lt. Wells Lewis killed by sniper in Piedmont Valley, France (near Alsace-Lorraine) during WW II.
- 1945 Cass Timberlane.
- 1947 Kingsblood Royal.
- 1949 The God Seeker.
- 1951 Dies in Rome of heart disease. He was buried in Greenwood Cemetery, MN. World So Wide published posthumously.
- Mark Schorer, Sinclair Lewis: An American Life, 1961.
- D. J. Dooley, The Art of Sinclair Lewis, 1967.
- Martin Light, The Quixotic Vision of Sinclair Lewis, 1975.
- Modern Fiction Studies, vol. 31.3, Autumn 1985, special issues on Sinclair Lewis.
- Sinclair Lewis at 100: Papers Presented at a Centennial Conference, 1985.
- Martin Bucco, Main Street: The Revolt of Carol Kennicott, 1993.
- James M. Hutchisson, The Rise of Sinclair Lewis, 1920-1930, 1996.
- Glen A. Love, Babbitt: An American Life.
- Stephen R. Pastore, Sinclair Lewis: A Descriptive Bibliography, 1997.