Scribner's Magazine
Book Reviews by Eli Siegel 1931-1934

From Scribner's, March 1933

Ann Vickers. By Sinclair Lewis. Doubleday, Doran. $2.50.

There is, in the book Ann Vickers, a rattling panorama of things west and east of New York; and, in the midst of that panorama, a woman with her feelings changing and changing. Ann Vickers, starting with Illinois, wanted some man who knew his own mind, was fairly fleshly, and wasn't given to dilly-dallying; she also wants to adjust herself to a tremendous, tricky, flexible universe. The search for the forthright man begins when Ann is twelve or so—the imperial boy, Adolph Klebs, is the male around then; and ends when Ann is forty, is famous and with more than her share of illuminating disappointments.

As Ann goes searching, longing, and learning, a lot of America of these late times is shown us by the zealous, sharp, mischievous Mr. Lewis. Ann Vickers has some of the fiercest and most effective note-taking I know; Mr. Lewis's eye, or inside card-index, is like an efficient gimlet. When Mr. Lewis makes fun of something, the thing stays funny; and when he probes something, the thing stays probed. Ann becomes a suffrage-worker, a prison-cleanser; and she meets all sorts of reformistic, prominent, and back-alley people; and what Ann meets is creatively investigated by the Lewis committee. Some of wildest and highest New York of the last twenty years hilariously reposes in Ann Vickers; out-of-the-way females, nation-saviors, government-botherers, ultra-delicate poets, oily social-workers and all sorts of sex-revolutionists and biology-sub verters.

The Lewis observation, as hinted, does all kinds of glorious and pleasure-giving things, but the burrowing and fiery Lewis creation, to be seen in Main Street, has, I believe, become more sedate, weaker. Mr. Lewis can take notes like the very devil; he is searchlight and pickaxe at once; he can mold his notes into something live and intense; but he hasn't burrowed so deep into himself in his latest novel. Too much of Ann Vickers is just a wonderful, necessary job. As an instance, thousands of persons will see a prison-building differently if they meet one while riding or walking, just because they read about Copperhead Gap Prison in Lewis's book; it will be impossible for them to do otherwise, for Lewis just twists the sickeningly cruel prison into you, in a way that words can, and the motion-picture or theatre can't. But one feels that yet more could be said, and unimpeded creation could say it. Also, Mr. Lewis's desire to say the awful-lest and funniest about America and elsewhere sociologically, makes for novelistic bulges and vacancies. I suppose, therefore, that all laudatory adjectives could be used about Mr. Lewis's last novel except those meaning that it was great.

Eli Siegel.

Reviews by Eli Siegel from Scribner's Magazines 1931-1934. Copyright 1931, 1932, 1933, 1934 Charles Scribner's Sons; copyrights renewed. Reprinted with the permission of Charles Scribner's Sons.


More Scribner's Reviews by Eli Siegel

arrowA Calendar of Sin by Evelyn Scott
arrowMark Twain's America by Bernard DeVoto
arrowTragic America by Theodore Dreiser
arrowThe Road Leads On by Knut Hamsun
arrowEva Gay by Evelyn Scott
arrowThe Life of Emerson by Van Wyck Brooks
arrowAdventures in Genius by Will Durant
arrowAnn Vickers by Sinclair Lewis
arrowBreathe Upon These Slain by Evelyn Scott
arrowThe Sheltered Life by Ellen Glasgow

arrowEimi by E.E. Cummings
arrowJohn Dryden by T.S. Eliot
arrowSelected Essays
: 1917-1932 by T.S. Eliot
arrowThe First Wife
and Other Stories by Pearl S. Buck
arrowThe Sibyl of the North: The Tale of Christina, Queen of Sweden
by Faith Compton Mackenzie
arrowThe Soul of America by Arthur Hobson Quinn
arrowThree Cities: A Trilogy by Sholom Asch
arrowEdmund Kean by Harold Newcomb Hillebrand
arrowWilliam Carlos Williams: Collected Poems, 1921-1931
arrowA Cultural History of the Modern Age by Egon Friedell, Vol. II
arrowThe Proud and the Meek (Men of Good Will, Part II) by Jules Romains
arrowThe Proud and the Meek (Men of Good Will, vol. III) by Jules Romains


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