I didn't find time to surf member blogs on Blog Explosion this weekend so nearly all of the visitors to my blog the past two days have been the result of people hunting up terms on search engines like Yahoo and Google. One visitor who Googled in was searching the terms "Wawasee+country+kennel". I can't imagine what they were looking for, but my blog was the fifth listing on the first page of their search. I mentioned Lake Wawasee a few weeks ago in a post about South Bend, the town in Indiana where my mother was born and raised.
The fourth listing on that search was headed 'The Big Town'. It's either a long story or a short book by Ring Lardner. The subtitle, "How I and the Mrs. go to New York to see life and get Katie a husband," tells what the story is about. Katie is the younger sister of the Mrs. I haven't read the whole thing yet, but from what I've seen so far it doesn't seem fictional enough to be a novel and there's too much story in it to call it an essay. It's mostly just Ring Lardner being Ring Lardner.
What I hadn't realized is that Lardner was born and raised in Niles, Michigan, a few short miles north of South Bend, just across the Michigan state line. He actually began his career as a journalist on a paper in South Bend and if 'The Big Town' is as autobiographical as it seems to be, then the resort on Lake Wawasee where my mother worked summers in high school as a lifeguard, not far from where my grandfather was born, was a favorite haunt of Ring Lardner's in the early days of Prohibition.
I'm not sure yet if F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway were actually part of the life he and the Mrs. saw on their trip to the big town. The leaders of The Lost Generation were still youngsters then, in their early twenties, but I understand both of them did acknowledge reading and being influenced by Lardner early on in their careers.
Lardner is often quoted on the subject of genealogy for having said that "the family you come from isn't as important as the family you're going to have." Some people think that Ring Lardner Jr. was a good illustration of that principle. He wasn't quite as famous, but he sure lived a lot longer than Hemingway and Fitzgerald. His one-liner to the HUAC during the Hollywood witchhunts, "if I did, I'd hate myself in the morning," earned him two years in prison and ten years on the blacklist, but it also brought down the House.
I don't have any kids, but if I did I think I'd recommend that they read Lardner's book I do have a niece and later this year she'll be going off to school in The Big Town.