Sinclair Lewis as Reader and Critic

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This study provides readers with a comprehensive view of novelist Sinclair Lewis as an avid reader and literary critic. The colorful allusions and satiric pronouncements of America’s first winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature on books and writers prompted many readers during the first half of the 20th century to take up more and better reading. The study offers a biographical overview of the literary Lewis; insights into the novelist’s ideas on and images of readers and reading; details of Lewis’s sweeping references to everyone from Homer to Norman Mailer; discussion of the author’s reflections on the problems of writers and writing; and, finally, clarity on Lewis’s attitudes toward literary critics and literary criticism – not excluding the novelist’s conclusions about his own criticism and role as literary reviewer. In addition to a general index, the book includes a character index.


“His new study advances Lewis scholarship further. It is a rich catalogue of literary references in Lewis’s published writings. Every major writer deserves a study of this nature, though few receive one…..this author-emphasizing format with its devotion to facts instead of theory makes the book an easy-to-use tool for any scholar who needs to know the extent of Lewis’s literary knowledge or the degree of a particular literary influence. Also helpful for measuring knowledge and influence is Bucco’s determination to mention all the references in Lewis’s work to each author. Among the book’s benefits is a fresh sense of the range and depth of Lewis’s literary understanding….Readers will be surprised at the degree of inclusiveness revealed here, which is one of the important discoveries of the new book. An added pleasure is the spice of extra details Bucco sprinkles into his text….His book has sure value for both Lewis studies and the study of literary experience in America during the first half of the twentieth century.” – George Killough, College of St. Scholastica, former president of the Sinclair Lewis Society

“… a monumental study of Lewis’s development as reader, writer, and critic….Bucco skillfully arranges what both Lewis’s ‘auctorial voice’ and his characters (impassioned or indifferent readers, pseudo-readers or anti-readers) have to say about myths, legends, Biblical stories, and nearly 400 different authors….which can be read either in sequence or selectively, as one would read an entry or an article in an encyclopedia, using the general or character index at the end as a guide…..Bucco writes, like Lewis himself, with obvious conviction, but also with a sense of irony or humor, and an engaging style ranging from the scholarly or literary to idiom or slang….a significant contribution to modern Lewis scholarship.” – Frederick Betz, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, President of The Sinclair Lewis Society

Table of Contents

Preface by Roger Forseth
Introduction: Man of Letters (biographical information)
1. Drummer for Readership (Joy and Perils of Reading; Audiences, Pseudo-Readers, Indifferent Readers, Anti-Readers; Propaganda, Obscenity; Censorship; Poetry; Drama; Film; Pop Lit; Letters; Magazines; Newspapers; Libraries; The Book)
2. Homer to Shakespeare
3. Milton to James
4. Garland to Wharton
5. Dreiser to Mailer
6. Instructor in Authorship (Writer’s Tools; Born Writer; Unremitting Toil; Real People, Real Problems, Real Places; Bohemians, Reporters, and Poetasters, Alien Rewards and Inherent Excellence)
7. Reviewer of Reviewers (Critical Spirit; Literary Institutions; Pulitzer Prize; Professors of Literature; Babbitt, More, Literary Scholars; Phelps, Mencken, Nathan, Van Doren, Novelists as Critics, Van Dyke, Walton, DeVoto; Sherman, Burt, Kazin; Self-Critic)
Notes, Selected Bibliography; General Index; Character Index

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