As others read us: American fiction abroad; Sinclair Lewis, part two
But the thing I think is interesting when Lewis did only the latter I want you did create only a public as most notoriously I think in this decade in the little book called The Man Who knew Coolidge. It's a flat failure it was a commercial for Yaron society and as a border read that it has that element in it but whether in spite of himself or because he was so that much of an artist seems to me a lawyer succeeded in getting some complex intention and character Babbitt would you feel like that so I agree completely and of got the satirical power and the simplicity of the frame walk and fences from the same motive instead of creating an impression of a lot of normal dulness of monotony and builds. But yes he's a kind of classic. That's all you hear in that book which is probably absent from many of the best sellers not us I don't know really ever really hit that again or got into that depth again he's even a shark not yet reached an important point to me. His connection might of course may study this
kind of man's Yes from awful Yes yes. Well but it is the type of business my dogs will certainly is the individual one. That's what I was becoming accustomed to the home of the homeless. He discovered slowly and always with a little astonishment that the French were human even according to the standards of United States of America. He meditated on it alone for the cognac and sober. You're going to say I'm Venda though dissolves and often the waiters understood him in front of Weber's during the not ungrateful hour of freedom when Fran was busy trying on hats. Just what did I expect in France. Oh I don't know. Funny kind of hard to remember now just how I did picture it. Yes I thought there wouldn't be any comforts no bathrooms and and everybody taking red wine and snails for breakfast. No motor buses are comfortable trains
and no cocktails and all the men wearing waxed mustaches and funny beards and saying the hired garrulous von lawfully girl who lied to her and the young Frenchmen in London clothes driving a span of tweezers at 100 kilometers an hour and you hear him at the Ritz talking perfect English talking about English stainless steel and about building bridges in the Argentine and the influence of the Soviets and China and. I suppose I felt that the entire known world revolved around the general offices of the Rev. Motor Company Constitution Avenue zenith and all the time towers and cathedrals and alleys and Europe not caring what Sam Dodsworth thought about making the 1928 models of dull blue. It seems so important but mind you I'm glad I'm an American. But life was a lot simpler than
we knew we were it. We knew that all of Europe was unbathed and broke and that America was the world's only bulwark against Bolshevism and famine. They lie so these speakers at club meetings and these writers in the magazines they tell us that no European has ever played tennis or taught the Ten Commandments to his kids or build a railroad and that the only thing that keeps Europe from reverting to the caveman is American cash rocked. And yet I'm never going to be European. Fran might. Oh Rand my darling are you going to drift away from me every day you get snooty or about my poor old provincial Americanism and you're just waiting for some really slick European to come along. And by God there's one thing I won't stand her telling me how inferior I am to some gigolo
for of course the girl say that's where she still is she still a girl a little older than Emilie but not so sensible. Of course she gets excited by Europe. She's done her job hasn't she. She's run the house and brought Emily and Brenda up hasn't she. I've got to be patient. But falling for a featherweight like Blackard ally wish Todd were here. Fran and I haven't got anybody. And your still dodging the issue my lad. What is Sam Dodsworth going to do about the fact that he's as provincial as a prairie dog and that he's only fifty one with a chance of another 30 years and that he's discovered a world. Nothing I guess. Too late. I'd be a pretty spectacle now wouldn't I. As one of these American businessmen to come over here
and try to hide the fact that they've made their coin out of soap opera port and so they collect first editions and apologize for being themselves. But just now and then I'll learn to sit still like this and not feel I have to be efficient and hustle like God. Five o'clock I've got to hustle to meet friends. Well I suppose the worst may have killed but Americans thought he thought of Americans abroad. But Americans abroad for a different lot than home with a new realization perhaps of their own. I think the character of dogs worth more than than any other was a widening of horizon for Sony Lois's character as well as himself. Would you say it's a must for drawing. Yes sir you think you are right. And what interest me dug for even more of the embedded is exactly the updated to be fair to BBC news man.
Not only losing individually but it will if not get it that he said it but as you said in a kind of get TV deal business. Well I think you're quite right Mr. Rejali I think it's fair to say there's a good deal of Lewis himself seriously in dogs worth much more so than in Babbitt. There is some of the episodes such as the one the marriage is breaking up and Lewis for a brain represents dogs worth taking a long trip through the war hiking trip with the newspaper man. That's actually what happened to Lewis himself. I didn't know at the time that he was in a similar distress so that a great deal of it is really much more autobiographical almost any other book of Lewis that I know. And with this the story of Europeans to know what was really thought of them through those work well I would like to ask Mr. Brit Jolie that question because I have found that in my experience that most Europeans don't find much to interest them and Doug swears
I agree but I don't know what it is just that resign. I don't see that that's what it's a great novel but I find it interesting perhaps from my own viewpoint exactly because the reason this man used anything more by 50 sympathetically and he had only been bringing in something which I think is may have some interest standout in school and you think obviously has a very incredibly interesting page about America which of course you criticize. But in the same time he prophesies us perhaps some time in this country the Big Business Man and you rich man and men of wealth will create a new little child. And he hopes for that exactly because of fangs that the businessman has a new seed and Seanie kind mind knows the prize of things even of things which are media both not salt.
And you know that what he is prophesies of it actually and it and we've seen it coming and you see the hand of NBC. He of course would have the opposite then we have the businessman who understand the other side and who is very much in your mind and bet even more you than the theist. There are the rest. Well isn't that fascinating. It was to be jolly I know that I would look to you the efforts of the novel American novelist to get the businessman making a character for a long time had to resort to this device of showing him in Europe. For instance Henry James as the American it was for a really large words. I like to make a fascinating comparison. Because the average writer in America doesn't get into a business office he doesn't understand what goes on in the office they only do is get the American abroad where over and over again all writers I mean way and Fitzgerald as well as
and reject names and Louis show This American business man. Once he gets it right is not at all that standout prophesied he knows the price of that he doesn't know the price of anything it pays much too much that's exactly the point not only in my opinion more libertarian ideology completely and this is why subconsciously I think he thinks what he's on the upscale cost back and the other a sack yet the strongest man by making her own fortune. And who will of course look at and celebrate any man's detachment there. I'll tell you Mark I wear mess except when you see the kind where your wife and daughter. Yes he's completely different. Oh well I think you know that Lewis had a great consciousness of this paradox in writing the book because he had it in himself. He would remember going around Italy loosening at the Roman gate with him and he would have been reading some siege of foreigners. I gotta remember that as you know more history of forests and ideas and he would end the battle at the Roman gate
to the vast amazement of the passing years scaping into a kind of romantic dream of medieval Florence exactly as does work and he would behave in restaurants in Florence very much as Americans behave in dollars worth. But meanwhile our what we would do this knowing that he was the man who had written dimes worth pointing up this pathetic American in Europe it is a it's a it's an ambiguous feeling. And Louis had a deep sense of both poles of the problem I agree I think with one could give a kind of general definition of a simplistic view it's not valid by seeing if you can the novelist who did this with that kind act asshole. Even life successors. I forgot the sense of the family yours which company sucks yes well does I think is something I would do as a student of American literature as an American student of American that was I would ask your opinion on does seem to me in a curious way that
there is a generalized and universalize quality somewhere in Lois which is something one might say is characteristic of recent American literature about some not hard to put your finger on it. Occasionally European critics seem to recognize this. Do you feel what I'm getting at the fact that Sinclair Lewis Why didn't he get many Come seen as giving out something more than I would any kind of like to say that I wonder whether you would agree or any of your ideas and I sing songs this imagine of all the bad be FAR more or less man. And and I have as a matter of fact an old importation for all that is a man which I think he's quite into his new store longer. We'll try to update you as much as possible as we know if the statement was written by 1947 and
on the lead time. Morse you know you know all but he was already going through the craziest political and psychological which finally led him to take his life to suicide and as a matter of our strange of you know I was called Wasn't you discover any of America. He's often over and 47 certainly I mean is that what America is about that could have SAD AND already been set still if we see somebody of that discover what it is. All of them are not dying on me would you say are you saying describe how he or that young Italian on that if I she used the fascist regime does call her on it. And then he says this much. The fury and involved in this is city which even the least attentive could help but
feeling indeed translated pages of source books are dead. You're going to get my sister Billy on in public. Get stupefied by academy system and office. That college sure seemed to us to be in ideal place for work and research for a hard and difficult quest not merely tower of babel of sound and fooling me of noisy efficiency and of automatic optimism. We then realize that America was not in it in all that land or a new historical beginning but only the northernmost stage where with great truthfulness then anywhere else there was plenty of energy that is really remarkable passes was to be jolly I suppose that explains why to Italy
France Italy certain American writers I would think of Hemingway and Farquhar. I think they would have peeled very much in these terms and in their case of course they would have a more direct influence on the writing on the technique Exactly exactly. Sinclair Lewis was the man who revealed a certain kind of continental moral content and perhaps before all of the others but he was never there. People like pierce your base and mask their own they are kind of wild from him last time. Yes and from 8:56 a.m. structural They have certainly very much of that loose they learn ideas ideas and perspectives you can use that. And of course the revelation of America which is a very pop. And they got it in some respects didn't they rather easily and directly from Louis because he translates fairly well.
Let's roll that is a very important part of the problem that was easy. They had a kind of document which said you had three documentary took it seriously. Even a city that any walk but without great problems except the impact of a way of life right here. To the outside on the man's evening you know their pleas and perhaps even you know their age as well. Do you think they feel any kind of home or the crusading tendency in the US and say it can't happen here or in you know as far as itself or certainly in the home again very very well I don't know whether I am answering your question now I will say something now about the hype out of the war. You what can't happen here of course the title is ironic but if you read the wall you'll find that perhaps he's not as ironic as it was meant to be because my feeling is I took the fire that
Lewis did that it can't happen here. It doesn't make you think to convince Now it is pretty rigged up isn't it. Yeah they do. Reaction there. Yes and there's a mother or father. Do you know the feeling that America is perhaps just perhaps the exception that it can't happen here. And the point is these that you will be out of theirs found in agreement with him you know otherwise they felt that it cannot happen in America or at least and that's that feeling of course that he gave it can really be our way to American literature and a fascist regime. I will tell you that is simple or something about all of these some of the most connected. Then you publish among the Dorian at the time when the Grapes of Wrath was mostly the fascist class was very happy because everybody found that it would prove how democracy is
unable to keep its promises. Now the action was exactly the opposite. Getting those first two sayings First of all that I was freed on to criticize the American situation such as. It was not I think he neatly and second then you Okies and I had John oh so pleased to have something that works. Yeah for real once now diddly everybody's got their motorcycles. After a fashion. I wonder you know how you feel about I was too jolly I find in trying to give courses on the literature of the twenties now that the writer for whom I have to do most archaeology in the sense of digging up the past and identifying things of undergraduates don't know because they want to live and I don't want to have to work the hardest with Lewis as compared let's say with DOS PASSOS or having way more of a thing
more dated in that sense that sense yes. I wonder do you how do you feel about it at the moment in Europe is Louis still would you say being read now. I don't know but he sure. After all be Babbitt sat back where some people seem to think so again. Yes but you aren't saying that those as more of an historian is a novelist. Well no I think what I would mean to say is that in order to really to understand his novels you have to have so many topical references to things of the 20s to the movie stars and the dance styles and he's more topical and that's probably just think songs that sound as though he had a strong sense of history and I think this is important thing I remember talking with him at the time he came to lighten about and he pointing out what had happened in the way of improving mainstreet life that with air conditioning and improvements in transportation and television and so on the thing was entirely different and the people knew
much more about New York styles and New York fashions and plays and slogans and songs and whatever it might be. And I remember his eyes lighting up with great excitement and when I said yes to just as you were getting it and he said Yes yes I got it just at the right time. That's how you say that because that's something I actually used to concrete. Headline. Yeah yeah let's call it that way because of course there are no longer any need for two hours but you can find you know in a way some equivalents and that of course will be very important for you know we still wouldn't understand even the first reference is way out of current things. Well it's not my problem I think in appreciating him today but it's a problem for the American as well as for the European reader really for the young American right.
So he may have been a prophet I think it was and in the story until you mentioned Jeremiah Wright a little bit ago. But the thing that I I think in a measure would be a suitable climax to this program is the prophecy that I find so implicit in the end of the Nobel speech it's almost as if he was saying that it was time for the next 10 years 20 years perhaps even longer than almost the precise pardon that American literature would take. I wonder if you'd be willing Mr. Miller to redo some of that speech I think is a very remarkable speech at the time. Remember it will remember that it was seemed frivolous insulting and insouciant kind of thing that was hardly becoming the dignity of a great Nobel Prize. Actually it was the only way I could talk because if you talk more solemnly you got embarrassed and there's a good deal as you say was divinely good prophetic quality in it. It is not today vastly more true than it was
20 years ago that such novelists of ours as you read in Sweden novelists like Dreiser and work out there are authentically popular and influential in America. We still most revere the writers for the popular magazines who are already an edifying chorus chant at the America of a hundred and twenty million populations is still as simple as pastoral as it was when it had but forty minutes that an industrial plant with 10000 employees. The relationship between the worker and the manager is still as neighborly and on complex as in a factory of 1840 with five employees. But the relationship between father and son between husband and wife are precisely the same in an apartment enough 30 story Palace today with three motor cars awaiting the family below and five books on the library shelves and a divorce imminent in the family next week. As were those relationships you know Rose Vale five room cottage in
88 that healed fine America has gone through revolutionary change from rustic colony to world empire without having the least altered to bucolic puritanic simplicity. It is my faith in this paper to swing constantly from optimism to pessimism. Back. But so it is the fate of anyone who writes or speaks of anything in America. The most contradictory the most depressing the most startling of any lie on the world today US having with no muted pride call the roll of what seemed to me to be a great man and women in American literary life today and having indeed omitted a dozen other names which I should like to boast of with our time. I must turn again and assert that in our contemporary American literature indeed all American Art save architecture in the film we make. Yes we who have such
pregnant vigorous standards in commerce and science have no standards no healing communication no heroes to be followed no villains to be condemned no certain ways to be pursued and no dangerous power is to be avoided. You know American novelist or poet all rounders or sculptor or painter must work alone in confusion unassisted save by his own integrity. The great Cambridge Concord circle in the middle of the 19th century Emerson Longfellow homes they all kits were sentimental reflections of Europe and they left no school no influence on Parliament poll and in some degree all foreign were outcasts. Men alone despise berated by the new Humanists of their generation. It was with the emergence of William Deane hollows that we first began to add something like
a standard and a very bad standard it was Mr Hollands was one of the gentlest sweetest and most honest of men but he had the coat of a piezo made his greatest delight was to have tea drink rage. He abhorred not only profanity and obscenity but all about H.G. Wells is called the jolly coarseness of life and his fantastic vision of life which he innocently conceived to be realistic. Farmers and seamen and factory hands might exist but the farmer must never be covered with muck. The seaman was never rowed out Audi chanties a factory hand must be thankful to his good employer and all of them long for the opportunity to visit Florence smiled gently at the quaintness of beggars. So strongly did I almost feel as genteel this new humanistic philosophy that he was able vastly to influence his contemporaries down even in 1914 and the turmoil of the Great War.
He was actually able to tame Mark Twain perhaps the greatest of our writers and to put that fiery old savage into an intellectual frock coat and top hat. But always time well man my collar so if you sit we seeking to guide America into becoming a pale edition of an English cathedral town there were surly and authentic fellows on the No. Reiser and James moniker and Mencken who insisted that our land had something more than tea table gentility and some without standards we have survived and for the strong young man it has perhaps been well that we should have no standard for after seeming to be pessimistic about my own and much beloved land. I want to close this dirge with a very lively sound of optimism. I howl for the future of American literature. Every hope and every year really. We are coming out I believe of the stuffiness sane safe and incredibly dull provincialism. There are young Americans today who are doing such passionate and are finding
work that it makes me sick to see that I am a little too old to be one of them. There is honest Hemingway a bit are you educated by the most intense experience disciplined by his own high standards and authentic artist whose home is in the whole of life. There is Thomas Wolfe a child of I believe 30 or younger who is one and only novel of home where Angel is worthy to be compared with the best in our literary production. A gargantuan creature with great gusto of life there is Martin Wilder who in an age of realism dreams the older lovely dreams of the eternal romantics. But as John Dos Passos with his hatred a safe and sane standards Babbitt and his splendor of revolution or Stephen the night American brashness has restored the epic poem with a glorious memory of John Brown. There are Michael go all reveals a new front gear of the Jewish East Side and William Faulkner who has freed the south from obscurity. And there are a
dozen other young poets and fiction heirs most of them living now in Paris. Most of them a little insane in the tradition of James Joyce who are insane they maybe have refused to be genteel and traditional and dull. I salute them with the joy in being not yet too far removed from their determination to give the America that has mountains and endless prairie enormous cities and lost farm cattle and billions of money and tons of faith to an America that is as strange as Russia and as complex as China. I'll address your worthy of our vastness. QUESTION You've just heard on the foreign reputation of Sinclair Lewis is the third of a series of programmes and titled as others read us American fiction abroad produced and recorded by the Literary Society at the University of Massachusetts under a grant from the educational television and radio center. This program is distributed
- Sinclair Lewis, part two
- Producing Organization
- University of Massachusetts
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
- Episode Description
- In this program, the second of two parts, critics Renato Poggioli and Perry Miller discuss European opinions of American writer Sinclair Lewis.
- Other Description
- This series analyzes European views of the works of American authors.
- Broadcast Date
- American literature--Europe--History and criticism.
- Media type
Guest: Poggioli, Renato, 1907-1963
Guest: Miller, Max, 1911-1985
Moderator: Varley, H. Leland
Producing Organization: University of Massachusetts
Subject: Lewis, Sinclair, 1885-1951
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 57-22-3 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- Chicago: “As others read us: American fiction abroad; Sinclair Lewis, part two,” 1957-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed October 23, 2021, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-kk94cj1p.
- MLA: “As others read us: American fiction abroad; Sinclair Lewis, part two.” 1957-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. October 23, 2021. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-kk94cj1p>.
- APA: As others read us: American fiction abroad; Sinclair Lewis, part two. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-kk94cj1p