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Newton Booth Tarkington, an enormously prolific novelist, playwright, and short story writer who chronicled urban middle-class life in the American Midwest during the early twentieth century, was born in Indianapolis on July 29, 1869. He was the son of John Stevenson Tarkington, a lawyer, and Elizabeth Booth Tarkington. His uncle and namesake, Newton Booth, was a governor of California and later a United States senator. In the essay 'As I Seem to Me, ' published in the Saturday Evening Post in...See more
Newton Booth Tarkington, an enormously prolific novelist, playwright, and short story writer who chronicled urban middle-class life in the American Midwest during the early twentieth century, was born in Indianapolis on July 29, 1869. He was the son of John Stevenson Tarkington, a lawyer, and Elizabeth Booth Tarkington. His uncle and namesake, Newton Booth, was a governor of California and later a United States senator. In the essay 'As I Seem to Me, ' published in the Saturday Evening Post in 1941, Tarkington recalled dictating a story to his sister when he was only six. By the age of sixteen he had written a fourteen-act melodrama about Jesse James. Tarkington was educated at Phillips Exeter Academy, Purdue University, and Princeton, where his burlesque musical "The Honorable Julius Caesar" was staged by the Triangle Club. Upon leaving Princeton in 1893 he returned to Indiana determined to pursue a career as a writer. After a five-year apprenticeship marked by publishers' rejection slips, Tarkington enjoyed a huge commercial success with "The Gentleman from Indiana" (1899), a novel credited with capturing the essence of the American heartland. He consolidated his fame with "Monsieur Beaucaire" (1900), a historical romance later adapted into a movie starring Rudolph Valentino. "'Monsieur Beaucaire" is ever green, ' remarked Damon Runyon. 'It is a little literary cameo, and we read it over at least once a year.' The political knowledge Tarkington acquired while serving one term in the Indiana house of representatives informed "In the Arena" (1905), a collection of short stories that drew praise from President Theodore Roosevelt for its realism. In collaboration with dramatist HarryLeon Wilson, Tarkington wrote "The Man from Home" (1907), the first of many successful Broadway plays. His comedy "Clarence" (1919), which Alexander Woollcott praised for being 'as American as Huckleberry Finn or pumpkin pie, ' helped launch Alfred Lunt on a distinguished career and provided Helen Hayes with an early successful role. Following a decade in Europe, Tarkington returned to Indianapolis and won a new readership with the publication of "The Flirt" (1913). The first of his novels to be serialized in the Saturday Evening Post, the book contained authentic characters and themes that paved the way for "Penrod" (1914), a group of tales drawn from the author's boyhood memories of growing up in Indiana. "The adventures of Penrod Schofield," which Tarkington also chronicled in the sequels "Penrod and Sam" (1916) and "Penrod Jashber" (1929), seized the imagination of young adult readers and invited comparison with Tom Sawyer. Equally successful was "Seventeen" (1916), a nostalgic comedy of adolescence that subsequently inspired a play, two Broadway musicals, and a pair of film adaptations as well as Tarkington's sequel novel "Gentle Julia" (1922). Tarkington broke new artistic ground with "The Turmoil" (1915), the first novel in his so-called Growth trilogy documenting the changes in urban life during the era of America's industrial expansion. William Dean Howells, the father of American realism, praised Tarkington's vivid depiction of the human misery generated by one man's worship of bigness and materialism. "The Magnificent Ambersons" (1918), the second work in the series, earned Tarkington the Pulitzer Prize. "'The Magnificent Ambersons" is perhaps Tarkington's best novel, 'judged Van Wyck Brooks. '[It is] a typical story of an American family and town--the great family that locally ruled the roost and vanished virtually in a day as the town spread and darkened into a city.' The "Midlander" (1924) concludes the trilogy with the story of a real estate developer who is both a creator and... See less
Tarkington writes about small town Indiana in the early Twentieth Century better than anyone. Alice Adams is an ambitious social climber, but coming from a poor family it's a hard climb. A handsome ... read more
I recently bought Penrod and Sam-- as well as Penrod-- for my 12-year-old grandson's birthday, and for my 10-year-old great-grandson, who is a precocious reader. Both are reading through the books ... read more
An underrated classic, pure Americana- warts and all. Proof yet again that a good contemporary novel beats a “historical” one any day. The kind of book you’ll want to have on your shelf, to read ... read more
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