Sinclair Lewis (1885 – 1951) was an American novelist, short-story writer and playwright famous for becoming the first American awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1930. He was recognized “for his vigorous and graphic art of description and his ability to create, with wit and humor, new types of characters.” During his Nobel acceptance speech, Lewis praised the influential work of many of his contemporaries including Ernest Hemingway, Theodore Dreiser, and Willa Cather. Lorimer was attracted by Lewis’ ability to mix satire and sentiment with a knowledge of sound business practices. George Lorimer, editor of The Saturday Evening Post, was drawn to Lewis’ ability to mix satire and sentiment with a knowledge of sound business practices, publishing one of his first short stories in 1915. Lorimer wrote: “Every business day is full of comedy, tragedy, farce, romance — all the ingredients of successful fiction.”
Sinclair Lewis began taking notes for a realistic portrayal of small-town life in 1916, ultimately publishing Main Street in October 1920. Lewis did not anticipate selling more that 25,000 copies of Main Street, but sales topped two million within a few years. The masterful satire Babbitt – a novel that Lewis dedicated to Edith Wharton – would follow in 1922. Lewis was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1926 for his novel, Arrowsmith (1925), which he declined to accept. We feature Lewis in our collection of Pulitzer Prize Winners.