I’m not the only one who Sinclair Lewis leaves a bit cold. Here’s a rant by Ernest Hemingway from a letter to my great-grandfather*:
“It certainly is a filthy business for them to give the Nobel prize to Mr. Lewis when they could have given it to Ezra, or to the author of Ulysses. Or is it that the Nobel prize is supposed to represent the best aspects of Swedish life in America, or anywhere, and this is why they give it to Lewis? Well, I suppose we should be thankful they didn’t give it to Dr. Henry van Dyke or William Leon Phelps, both of whom I’m sure, felt that they were in line for it. Also, it eliminated the Dreiser menace, although of two bad writers Dreiser certainly deserves it a hell of a lot more than Lewis. It has occurred to me that the only difference between the Nobel prize and all other prizes is simply a matter of quantity of money and since all prizes are lousy, what’s the difference except in the extent of the sum. Although last year when they gave it to Tomas Mann, and when they gave it to Yeats, it made me damned happy.”
*My great-grandfather was an American journalist in Paris during the 1920s and 1930s, during which time he became good friends with Hemingway, Pound, and a number of other writers, I am currently working on a book about his life, using his correspondence as well as the columns he wrote for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, which are really quite good. I will be sharing some of that material here in the future, no doubt. Hemingway, of course, won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954. Sinclair Lewis was the first American to do so in 1930.