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Booth Tarkington (Newton Booth Tarkington) Biography

(1869–1946), (Newton Booth Tarkington), The Gentleman from Indiana, Monsieur Beaucaire, The Magnificent Ambersons, Alice Adams, Growth

indiana american novel midwest

American novelist, born in Indianapolis, Indiana, educated at Purdue and Princeton Universities. He was a popular and prolific author, writing over forty novels, over thirty plays and screenplays, and several collections of short stories in a career that began with his first novel, The Gentleman from Indiana (1899). Popular success was secured with his second novel, Monsieur Beaucaire (1900), an eighteenth-century romance. He twice won the Pulitzer Prize, for The Magnificent Ambersons (1918) and Alice Adams (1921). The former, the second part of his trilogy Growth (1927), remains his best-known novel, mainly due to the brilliant film adaptation by Orson Welles in 1942. A regional realist, Tarkington celebrates the simple democratic values of the rural Midwest, particularly those of Indiana, a state which he briefly served politically in the Indiana House of Representatives between 1902 and 1903. His writings, however, are perceptively alert to the effects of the rapid industrialization of the Midwest and to the increasing heterogeneity of American life in the early years of the twentieth century. In an age which looked for greater sophistication and experimentation in fiction he was viewed rather disdainfully; Vernon Louis Parrington in The Beginnings of Critical Realism in America, 1860–1920 (1930) called him ‘the dean of American middle-class letters … a purveyor of comfortable literature to middle-class America’. A standard study is Booth Tarkington: Gentleman from Indiana (1955) by James Woodress.

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