Authors: Ring Lardner

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

American short-story writer and journalist

Author Works

Short Fiction:

Bib Ballads, 1915

Gullible’s Travels, 1917

Treat ’em Rough, 1918

The Real Dope, 1919

Own Your Own Home, 1919

How to Write Short Stories, 1924

The Love Nest, and Other Stories, 1926

Round Up: The Stories of Ring Lardner, 1929

Lose with a Smile, 1933

Ring Around the Bases: The Complete Baseball Stories of Ring Lardner, 1992 (Matthew J. Bruccoli, editor)

Long Fiction:

You Know Me Al, 1915

The Big Town, 1921

Drama:

June Moon, pr. 1929 (with George S. Kaufman)

Nonfiction:

My Four Weeks in France, 1918

Regular Fellows I Have Met, 1919

“The Young Immigrunts,” 1920

“Symptoms of Being Thirty-Five,” 1921

“Say It with Oil,” 1923

What of It?, 1925

The Story of a Wonder Man, 1927

Letters from Ring, 1979 (Clifford M. Caruthers, editor; revised as Letters of Ring Lardner, 1995)

Biography

Ringgold Wilmer Lardner was an important twentieth century contributor to a long line of American colloquial humorists, but he often applied his mastery of slang to satire. His pessimism sometimes assumed Swiftian dimensions, and his oblique commentaries on the human race could be full of acid.{$I[AN]9810001444}{$I[A]Lardner, Ring}{$I[geo]UNITED STATES;Lardner, Ring}{$I[tim]1885;Lardner, Ring}

Ring Lardner

(Library of Congress)

Born on March 6, 1885, he grew up in prosperous surroundings in Niles, Michigan. After abandoning the study of engineering, he fell into journalism in 1905. By 1919 he had worked as a highly successful sportswriter on several papers, mainly in Chicago. His marriage in 1911, which produced four sons, was generally happy in spite of his dependence on alcohol. In 1913 Lardner took over “In the Wake of the News,” a column in the Chicago Tribune. The Jack Keefe stories, written as a series of semiliterate letters by an oafish baseball player, began appearing in 1914; they were collected into an epistolary novel, You Know Me Al, in which Keefe, a selfish and cruel braggart, exposes all his obnoxious qualities in his own letters chronicling his athletic career. This was followed by Treat ’em Rough–which deals with Keefe’s adventures in World War I–Own Your Own Home, and The Real Dope. The Big Town, Lardner’s second novel, is a brash midwesterner’s account of his experiences in New York City.

How to Write Short Stories, published in 1924, is a central work in Ring Lardner’s career. The title is typical of his refusal to believe that he was a significant writer, but the collection included “Alibi Ike,” “Some Like Them Cold,” “The Golden Honeymoon,” and “Champion,” which was one of the earliest stories debunking sports. What of It?, a collection of magazine pieces, came next, and in 1926 his second major book of short stories, The Love Nest, and Other Stories, which included “Haircut” was published. A mock autobiography, The Story of a Wonder Man, and two more collections of stories and sketches, Round Up and Lose with a Smile, followed.

Despite his considerable output of fiction, Lardner never abandoned his newspaper column or syndicate writing. To this he added theater and film work. Although he was anxious for a stage success, the closest he came was in June Moon, on which George S. Kaufman collaborated. During the 1920’s Lardner was one of America’s most highly paid writers, but the great burden of work and the strain of alcoholic excesses caught up with him early; he suffered years of illness before he died. While sick he wrote a series of brilliant radio articles for The New Yorker in 1932 and 1933. He died at his home in East Hampton, Long Island, on September 25, 1933.

In his own time there was a group of critics who claimed Ring Lardner as one of the chief American satirists. Since then, much of Lardner’s work has become dated, perhaps because of his dependence upon exact slang and language from his own times. Certain short stories, however, such as “Haircut,” “Champion,” “Some Like Them Cold,” and “The Golden Honeymoon,” continue to involve readers, while You Know Me Al provides an astute and comical insight into the psyche of a would-be American baseball hero.

BibliographyBlythe, Hal, and Charlie Sweet. “Lardner’s ‘Haircut.’” The Explicator 55 (Summer, 1997): 219-221. Poses the question of why Whitey would tell his tale of homicide to a stranger; argues that Whitey feels guilty because he has been involved and thus, like the Ancient Mariner, stops strangers to tell his tale.Bruccoli, Matthew J., and Richard Layman. Ring Lardner: A Descriptive Bibliography. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1976. This highly accessible and useful summary of Lardner’s work provides a good starting point for getting a sense of Lardner’s overall achievements, range, and productivity.Cowlishaw, Brian T. “The Reader’s Role in Ring Lardner’s Rhetoric.” Studies in Short Fiction 31 (Spring, 1994): 207-216. Argues that readers of Lardner’s stories perceive a set of corrective lessons conveyed satirically by an implied author. Readers who accept the role of implied reader and thus align themselves with the implied author as perceptive and intelligent people accept these lessons and thus fulfill the basic purpose of satire, which is social correction.Elder, Donald. Ring Lardner. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1956. This early biography is helpful because it includes much firsthand testimony from those who knew Lardner throughout his career, including the very early days when his affection for baseball and overall philosophy of life were formed.Friedrich, Otto. Ring Lardner. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1965. An admirably concise work that discusses Lardner’s command of different dialects. Puts the darker side of Lardner’s psyche into the context of myths and misconceptions popular at the time he wrote. An expert on the historical period both in the United States and Europe, Friedrich provides a lucid and insightful introduction to Lardner’s main themes and techniques.Geismar, Maxwell. Ring Lardner and the Portrait of Folly. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1972. Probably the most ambitious work of literary criticism devoted entirely to Lardner. Geismar draws a full blown critique of American materialism out of Lardner’s work, arguing that Lardner’s sarcasm and satire masked a deeply felt idealism.Lardner, James. “Ring Lardner at 100–Facing a Legacy.” The New York Times Book Review 90 (March 31, 1985): 3. James Lardner reflects on the life and work of his grandfather, Ring Lardner, and describes the Ring Lardner Centennial Conference held at Albion College in Michigan; discusses Lardner’s satire, although he contends he gives his characters more depth than one usually associates with satire.Lardner, Ring. Letters of Ring Lardner. Edited by Clifford M. Caruthers. Washington, D.C.: Orchises, 1995. Lardner’s correspondence reveals biographical elements of his life.Lardner, Ring, Jr. The Lardners: My Family Remembered. New York: Harper and Row, 1976. Lardner’s third son, a successful screenwriter, provides a charming portrait of the Lardner family. As portrayed here, Ring Lardner, Sr., was humble and completely unpretentious about his work. He was also a good family man and had an interesting circle of friends, including F. Scott Fitzgerald.Robinson, Douglas. Ring Lardner and the Other. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992. Examines Lardner’s themes in his fiction. Includes bibliographical references and an index.Yardley, Jonathan. Ring. New York: Random House, 1977. This well-written, thorough biography is especially good at drawing the very strong connection between Lardner as journalist and Lardner as short-story writer. According to Yardley, the journalistic desire of unadorned facts that Lardner had to present leads logically to an unflinching examination of human nature and American society through the medium of fiction.
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