Author won Nobel Prize for Literature in 1930
Sinclair Lewis was born in 1885 in Sauk Centre, Minnesota, and graduated from Yale University in 1908. His college career was interrupted by various part-time occupations, including a period working at the Helicon Home Colony, Upton Sinclair's socialist experiment in New Jersey. He worked for some years as a freelance editor and journalist, during which time he published several minor novels. But with the publication of Main Street (1920), which sold half a million copies, he achieved wide recognition. This was followed by the two novels considered by many to be his finest, Babbitt (1922) and Arrowsmith (1925), which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1926, but declined by Lewis. In 1930, following Elmer Gantry (1927) and Dodsworth (1929), Sinclair Lewis became the first American author to be awarded the Nobel Prize for distinction in world literature. This was the apogee of his literary career, and in the period from Ann Vickers (1933) to the posthumously published World So Wide (1951) Lewis wrote ten novels that reveal the progressive decline of his creative powers. During his last years Sinclair Lewis wandered extensively in Europe, and after his death in Rome in 1951 his ashes were returned to his birthplace.
Lewis's tale of middle-class frustration, stress and success in the 1920s is brought to life by the L.A. Theatre Works' 1987 full cast production featuring more than 30 actors, including Ed Asner (as Babbitt), Judge Reinhold, Ted Danson, Richard Dreyfuss, Helen Hunt and John Lithgow. With a deep and raspy voice and with great projection, Asner delivers a believable and amusing performance that securely anchors the entire production. Whether bullying his family or spouting politics with his friends at the club, Asner keeps the consistency of the self-aggrandizing character solid throughout. Jazz music segues well between scenes, though without any additional production sound beyond voices, it can at times feel out of place. While the full cast proves enjoyable in their individual parts, many take turns narrating the exposition throughout the production. At times, this is executed well, but sometimes it feels as if the director is just trying to give everyone more voice time. (Sept.) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
First published in 1922, Babbitt is an authentic modern American classic, a biting satire of middle-American values that retains much of its poignancy today. George F. Babbitt, Lewis's outwardly successful but inwardly unhappy real estate salesman, still seems real. His story makes engrossing reading and is ideal for audio listening. With Babbitt himself at the center of every scene, it is impossible for listeners plagued by frequent interruptions to lose track of the story line. Narrator Wolfram Kandinsky has a voice that many listeners may find grating; however, his reading here conveys an appropriate ironic tone that is especially apt when he reads Babbitt's own lines. Recommended for general fiction collections. Kent Rasmussen, Thousand Oaks, CA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
"It is Babbitt that is [Sinclair Lewis's] most perfect creation. . . . We have to be thankful for the minor miracle that after almost a century, Babbitt still speaks to us all." --Azar Nafisi, in The Republic of Imagination
"Babbitt is now well into its nineties, but George F. Babbitt still lives and breathes and harrumphs. It's impossible, especially during any American election season, to read a newspaper or turn on the television without hearing the echoes of his voice. Babbitt is the original American everyman." --Nathaniel Rich, from the Foreword
"The equal of any novel written in English in the present century." --Virginia Woolf, The Saturday Review