In 1930, Harry Sinclair Lewis, better known as Sinclair Lewis, became the first American writer to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature. I finished reading Main Street (1920) yesterday and it is no wonder he won the Nobel. Not only can the man write, but his eye for social injustice was extraordinary and far ahead of its time.
Main Street is a story that in many ways speaks to the need for equality for women.
I began reading Arrowsmith (1925) this morning. Arrowsmith, the story of Martin Arrowsmith, who becomes a doctor for all the right reasons, is a book that speaks to the moral corruption of the healthcare system (then and now, by the way). The priority of the patient’s welfare is firmly placed in the rear view mirrors of financial greed and regulations too often created and kept in place by individuals who walk around with inflated views of their own importance, ‘cause by golly we are the enforcers of these regulations and so, by golly, y’all ought to sit up and take notice of us, and remember to act intimidated when we walk by or behave dictatorially towards you in a meeting or on a page.
I watched how one such official left the room recently at the end of a meeting. I had the distinct impression her day would have reached perfection had all in attendance bowed as she passed by.
Hypocrisy abounds, then and now. Lewis’s book, Elmer Gantry (1927) uses a fictional character, Gantry, to expose the wounding hypocrisy of those preachers who represent anything but Christianity. And, of course, there is his novel, It Can’t Happen Here (1935), about an American president who does his level best to be a dictator (Bush and Cheney anyone?).
Meeting Sinclair Lewis for me is meeting a friend. I plan on gobbling up a biography or two and, while my writing is not in the league of his writing, my will (and willpower) to expose the hypocrisy and harm being done in my society is.