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The Rise of Sinclair Lewis examines the making of Lewis’ s best-selling novels Main Street, Babbitt, Arrowsmith, and Elmer Gantry—their sources, composition, publication, and subsequent critical reception. Drawing on thousands of pages of material from Lewis’s notes, outlines, and drafts—most of it never before published—James M. Hutchisson shows how Lewis selected usable materials and shaped them, through his unique vision, into novels that reached and remained part of the American literary imagination. Hutchisson also describes for the first time how large a role was played by Lewis’s wives, assistants, and publishers in determining the final shape of his books.
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James M. Hutchisson is Associate Professor of English at The Citadel.Review:
“This new book is a triumph of scholarship. It will become an essential tool for subsequent studies of individual novels insofar as it reveals the designing-and-shaping work behind so many of them. The new reasonable view it provides of Lewis’s craft and character is welcome for its own sake and for the stimulus it will give to further thinking. The book is also very readable—a real virtue, for a scholarly book, that Lewis himself would appreciate.”
“In his study of Sinclair Lewis’s most prepotent novels, James Hutchisson has swept away the cobwebs of neglect from the reputation of a great American writer, whose acute and indelible portraits of America—its towns, cities, and social topography constructed a mirror that changed the way we see ourselves. In lucid prose Hutchisson recounts the fascinating stories of the writing of these novels, reveals the author at work and the private person and shows the passion and craftsmanship he poured into his books. Now we have a clearer understanding of the sources of Sinclair Lewis’ talent and of the literary significance of his volatile blend of satire and realism, caricature and truth.”
—Richard Lingeman, author of Small Town America
“Not only is this study impeccably researched and well written, not only does it bring forth a substantial amount of new material on Lewis’ career, but its publication could not come at a better time. The book should enjoy a considerable audience among those who are committed to a reexamination of the canon.”
—Robert E. Fleming, University of New Mexico
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