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Unformatted text preview: Always a realist, Lewis did not try to "gild refined gold" or to "paint the lily." His pictures of small, sordid American towns, as well as those of the larger cities, are accurate but unflattering. The Nobel Prize, according to the official citation, was awarded Lewis for his "powerful and vivid art and description and his ability to use wit and humor in the creation of original characters." Like William Dean Howells, he could take the commonplace in American life and make it literary material. Like Edith Wharton, he is also a novelist of manners. The surface detail of America he observed under a magnifying glass: speech, dwellings, marks of social status, pressures, idiosyncrasies, even the plush interiors of the high-priced automobiles of the era. As Lewis was preceded by Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman, and Mark Twain, all of whom railed against mass culture and fixed ideas, so was...
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- Fall '08