Stories of Sinclair Lewis
From the Sauk Centre Herald
1) Lewis and Bryant Library
2) Cast gets into Sinclair Lewis' skin
3) Bookseller remembers afternoon with Lewis
4) Is Lewis relavent?
5) Carol Kennicott returns to Main Street
6) Lewis scholars celebrate 75th anniversary of Babbitt
7) Enlightened on Lewis
8) The German side of Sinclair Lewis
9) The athletic side of Sinclair Lewis
Carol Kennicott returns to Main Street
by Anne Robinson, Herald Intern
Carol Kennicott made a return to Gopher Prairie during Sinclair Lewis Days. Carol made her appearance at the 75th anniversary of the publication of Main Street program held Thursday evening. Kathy Ray, an actress from Barrett, Minn., played Carol Kennicott in a monologue, Gopher Prairie Then and Now. A panel of six discussed the relevance of Main street 75 years later and other topics pertaining to Lewis and his writing.
Panel member included Kathy Ray; Dr. Lawrence Ianni, chancellor of the University of Minnesota, Duluth; Dr. George Killough, associate professor of English, College of St. Scholastica, Duluth; Dr. Roger Daniels Forseth, professor emeritus, University of Wisconsin, Superior; John Koblas, author/lecturer and Dr. Sally Parry, assistant professor of English, Illinois State University of English, Illinois State University, Normal Ill. Jim Umhoefer, board member of the Sinclair Lewis Foundation, served as moderator. The monologue included Carol's perceptions of Gopher Prairie in 1920 and of modern Gopher Prairie.
Ray addressed architecture; culture and leisure, entertainment and social attitudes.
"I have no reform program for you but criticism is a start," Carol said. "The real problem is spiritual."
"I first read Main Street as a junior in college. If I could have toned down my personality a little bit, I could have been called an angry young man," Ianni said.
He grew up in a small town near Pittsburgh and found he could relate to the novel. "Midwestern small towns have no exclusive claim on small mindedness," Ianni said. "You can find it anywhere."
Parry said Lewis' works are relevant, including works written after he won the Nobel prize. Her students are interested in what Lewis says about marriage relationships and women in society. "Lewis brought out the human heart and how hard it is to get along," Parry said. Killough has interviewed people who knew Lewis while he was living in Duluth and is editing a journal Lewis wrote in the 1940s.
Killough has heard an anecdote regarding the research of Kingsblood Royal. It is said Lewis would invite a group of black people and a group of blue-bloods to his home. Lewis would retire to a corner to take notes on the interaction between the two classes. Killough feels Carol's struggle for a conscious life is felt by women in small towns today. " "There is individual aspiration on one hand and hard reality on the other," Killough said.
Gopher Prairie represented something much larger. A member of a historical society suggested Koblas write on book on Sinclair Lewis. Koblas was interested in F. Scott Fitzgerald at the time. Sometime later he realized he was interested in Lewis, he said. He found a niece in Cross Lake, Minn. and was given a box of unpublished letters and journals in return for drinking a cup of jasmine tea with her.
"I wish I could say I was interested in Sinclair Lewis since kindergarten," Koblas said. "Forseth said Lewis' drunkenness is the typical description of the writer."
"What does that have to do with Lewis the writer," Forseth questioned. Forseth considers Main Street as a courtship between Carol Kennicott and Gopher Prairie.
"It was a process of mutual learning, rejection and ultimately, a successful relationship," Forseth said.
---Sauk Centre Herald, July 18, 1995