Anthony Di Renzo makes available for the first time since their original publication some eighty years ago a collection of fifteen of Sinclair Lewis's early business stories. Among Lewis's funniest satires, these stories introduce the characters, themes, and techniques that would evolve into Babbitt. Each selection reflects the commercial culture of Lewis's day, particularly Reason Why advertising, self-help manuals, and the business fiction of the Saturday Evening Post. The stories were published between October 1915 and May 1921 (nine in the Saturday Evening Post, four in Metropolitan Magazine, one in Harper's Magazine, and one in American Magazine). Because some things have not changed in the American workplace since Lewis's day, these highly entertaining and unflinchingly accurate office satires will appeal to the fans of Dilbert and The Drew Carey Show. In a sense, they provide lay readers with an archaeology of white-collar angst and regimentation. The horror and absurdities of contemporary corporate downsizing already existed in the office of the Progressive Era. For an audience contemplating the death of the American middle class, Lewis's stories provide an important retrospective on earlier times and a preliminary autopsy on the American dream. Appearing just in time to celebrate the seventy-fifth anniversary of the publication of Babbitt, this collection rescues Lewis's best early short fiction from obscurity, provides extensive information about his formative years in advertising and public relations, and analyzes both his genius for marketing and his carefully cultivated persona as the Great Salesman of American letters.
Anthony Di Renzo knows the business world far more intimately than most academics. A fugitive from advertising, he has worked as a copywriter, press agent, commercial artist, announcer, and corporate communications consultant. Currently he teaches professional writing and American business history at Ithaca College. His American Gargoyles: Flannery O'Connor and the Medieval Grotesque is available from Southern Illinois University Press.