Thursday, April 24, 2008


Like most of you, I was first exposed to Sinclair Lewis via a forced reading of Main Street. (OK, maybe for you it was Babbitt) in high school. Unlike Ethan Frome, various plays, The Grapes of Wrath, and other force-fed works, I really liked it. I have voluntarily been working my way down the hierarchy of Lewis's novels with pleasure ever since. Not even Bethel Merriday has put me off on my quest. Where to next? World So Wide? Cass Timberlane?

Dodsworth was #5 on my list. Either the greatest of his lesser novels or the least of his great novels (behind Main Street, Babbitt, Arrowsmith, and Elmer Gantry). it's a personal favorite. The title character is Zenith automobile manufacturer Samuel Dodsworth who sells his plant to take an extended tour of Europe with his wife Fran. Surprisingly, it's the go-getting Dodsworth that is the good guy; Lewis aims most of his barbs as Fran's mid-life crisis and pathetic tempts to re-invent herself as a expatriate ingenue.

But my favorite part is the travel stuff. I truly believe that travel is among the most overrated of human activities, and Lewis has has many delightfully unkind things to say about this odd obsession. To wit:

Actually, most of those afflicted with the habit of travelling merely lie about its pleasures and profits. They do not travel to see anything, but to get away from themselves, which the never do... They travel to escape thinking, to have something to do, just as they might play solitaire, work crossword puzzles, look at the cinema, or busy themselves with any other dreadful activity. These things the Dodsworths discovered though, like most of the world, they never admitted to them.
And my favorite:

If travel were so inspiring and informing a business...then the wisest men in the world would be deck hands on tramp steamers, Pullman porters, and Mormon missionaries.

So, where are you planning to go on your summer vacation?


Larktavia said...

I am off to Brooklyn to see my favorite single girl dog trainer, Denise of Empire of the Dog. I plan on staying up to the wee hours and sleeping in until mid day. Doing all the things I don't get to do much of any more - loud music and over indulging in food and drink.

John Marr said...

Make sure to bring along a Mormon missionary

Greg said...

You have great travel/vacation blog !!!

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Thank you!!!