The Nobel Prize committee cited Sinclair Lewis's "Main Street" as a major influence on his being the first American to receive the award for literature in 1930. "Main Street" was a publishing phenomenon in 1920. According to Lewis's biographer Mark Schorer, "In the first six months of 1921 it sold 180,00. It was finally to go into millions....printers could not keep up with the orders." Lewis's satiric expose of small town America set in Gopher Prairie, Minnesota (based on Lewis's home town of Sauk Centre) struck a nerve with citizens of his home town, but also with those on small towns across the nation. Author Jane Smiley observed, "Lewis perfectly renders the frequently nice and friendly narrow-minded prejudice of small town America that is all the more difficult to combat because it is well meaning and patriotic." We will discuss how Lewis's portrait of the great Midwest looks after 100 years.
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