Jackson: Ring Lardner, a deadpan author comes of age in the Deadball Era

From SABR member Frank Jackson at The Hardball Times on July 22, 2015:

“Find a writer who is indubitably an American in every pulse-beat, an American who has something new and peculiarly American to say and who says it in an unmistakably American way, and nine times out of ten you will find that he has some sort of connection with the gargantuan abbatoir by Lake Michigan (Chicago), that he was bred there, or got his start there, or passed through there in the days when he was young and tender.”
– H.L. Mencken, 1920

The above quotation invites a game of literary one-upmanship. Who can think of the most names that fit the above definition? In 1920, Mencken probably was thinking of Frank Norris, Theodore Dreiser, Carl Sandburg, Sherwood Anderson and Upton Sinclair, as well as other authors whose books have long since gone out of print. The 1910-1920 decade was particularly rich and is sometimes characterized as the “Chicago Renaissance.”

In the succeeding 95 years, the statement could be applied to Ernest Hemingway, Ben Hecht, Saul Bellow, Nelson Algren, Richard Wright, James T. Farrell and any number of lesser lights – come to think of it, even me. (I lived in Chcago for a year in my early 20s, so put me in the “young and tender” category.)

But if you had to pick one writer who best exemplified Mencken’s maxim, you could hardly do better than to choose Ringgold Wilmer Lardner, even though he wasn’t born or bred there.

Read the full article here: http://www.hardballtimes.com/ring-lardner-a-deadpan-author-comes-of-age-in-the-deadball-era/

Originally published: July 22, 2015. Last Updated: July 22, 2015.