main street

Oh I am skeptical of what Sinclair Lewis will do to this girl. I have owned this for a decade and have only now gotten around to reading it. The intro drew me before—the real beginning, I mean, not the italicized prelude-y thing, which I missed before—but I am distrustful of my old blind loyalty to extinct Americana, and limit the amount that I consume now.

I am all the more distrustful of this because of the portrayal of Carol, right off, as “so radioactive in her nerves, so adventurous her trust in rather vaguely conceived notions of sweetness and light,” and the italicized warning in the beginning: “would he not betray himself as an alien cynic who should otherwise portray Main Street, or distress the citizens by speculating whether there may not be other faiths?” And, however troublesome it may be to say it, because this is a cosmopolitan man writing about a naive country girl in the 20s, and in my experience they love to hurt those girls.

When guys from this era write of their heroines, it makes me a little queasy. They spend a long time focusing on the disintegration of all their characters once held dear. They seem to delight in it, yes, more so than when they write of men. The reverse is not true. Look at My Antonia. No delight in the suffering. No reveling. And here, because no one reads Sinclair Lewis anymore, I do not know what will go down. I have been utterly unexposed to this man. But I worry.

ETA: Um, so about how this is a depressingly timely novel. 100 years and people are still making the same arguments…


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