By Lewis family I mean Sinclair Lewis, Nobel Prize-winning author of Main Street and 22 other novels, and his older brother Claude Lewis, a doctor who lived next door to my dad’s family in the South Side neighborhood of St. Cloud, in the shadow of St. Cloud State University.
I know I’d enjoy the “Wit and Wisdom of Sinclair Lewis” reading at the St. Cloud public library on June 5 and the Sinclair Lewis Film Festival at the Paramount Theatre on June 7; and I’m especially sorry to miss the “Lewis Family in St. Cloud Lecture and Discussion” on June 8 at the Stearns History Museum, which will explore how Sinclair’s family and Minnesota upbringing influenced his books.
I started reading Main Street last summer when I was working on a travel story about Sauk Centre for the Star Tribune( you can read it here). After visiting the interpretive center in Sauk Centre and learning more about Lewis’ life and career, I was inspired to finally read the novel that is based on his hometown, which is only 26 from my hometown of Alexandria. Main Street was published in 1920, and I was surprised at how funny it was, and also how contemporary it felt – it was almost as though he was observing the conversations and foibles of people in modern day Northfield, or any other small Minnesota town. I was also captivated by his language. I found myself rereading his descriptive phrases and even reading a few sentences out loud, admiring their beauty. I’m sorry to say that writing obligations pulled me away from the book, and then it was due at the library, so I returned it, vowing to finish it later. Steve recently bought me a used copy, so I hope to put it on the top of the summer reading list.
|This is not my copy, but I like the art.|
Our appreciation for Sinclair’s writing will make it all the more meaningful when we stop in next week at the SCSU library to view the Claude and Sinclair Lewis Exhibit, a collection of Lewis family memorabilia including autographed first editions of Sinclair’s novels, family photographs and letters, and video presentations on Sauk Centre and Lewis family history.
We also plan to attend the garden party in Barden Park, near Claude’s former house and the site of the house where my dad, his brother Bob and sister Dana grew up (their house, sadly, is no longer there; it was moved many years ago to make way for a parking lot expansion). Several of my Riggs relatives plan to attend, and we’re making a family picnic of it, which will be great fun.
I’d love to stay for the concluding event of the afternoon, a performance by the St. Cloud Municipal Band, which is celebrating its 125-year anniversary, but we will probably have to skedaddle by then, to get back to our own small town for a trio of graduation parties, and Steve’s community theater performance – just the type of true life moments that gave Sinclair such rich material.