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Born in Minnesota, Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951) lived in Greenwich Village in the early 1910s, working as a journalist and editor. By the time the bookshop opened, he had moved away from the city. The early 1920s were the years of his greatest works—Main Street (1920), Babbitt (1922) and Arrowsmith (1925)—making Lewis one of the most famous writers in America. In 1930, he became the first American writer to win the Nobel Prize for literature. Best known for his critiques of middle-American norms and conventions, Lewis also set his keen eye on the literati, publishing a farcical short story about his time in the Village, "Hobohemia," in 1917. When it was produced as a play at the Greenwich Village Theater in 1919, its humor did not go over well with its targets, to the writer's chagrin. However, his ties to the Village were deep, and he was a frequent visitor to Frank Shay's shop, his tall, bespectacled, red-haired figure frequently seen browsing the shelves and talking with friends.
The opening pages of the earliest draft of Sinclair Lewis's Main Street, ca. 1920
This heavily edited manuscript became the bestselling novel that rocketed Lewis to literary fame upon its publication in 1920.