Work of Art Unworthy of Its Name

hotel room, bed empty and unmade

Many novelists have written about what it takes for a writer to become good enough to create art.

In Work of Art, Sinclair Lewis attempts, with minimal success, to turn that familiar plot on end.

Ora Weagle aspires to be a renowned — and rich— Master Artist. He sees himself as too talented to need to learn anything.

Ora ends up pandering to a public that can’t recognize either quality or plagiarism.

As a teen, Ora’s older brother, Myron, seems to have no aspirations at all. He goes to school and does whatever is needed around the rural hotel their parents run.

Unsure what he wants to do with this life, Myron asks a traveling salesman if hotels are a good business. J. Hector Warlock paints a vivid picture of the importance of hotels and the vast learning hotel-keeping requires.

Myron is inspired.

He will work to become a Master Hotel Keeper.

Unfortunately, Lewis doesn’t make Myron’s story inspirational. Heaping sarcasm on the rubes who fail to appreciate the quality of Myron’s meals, beds, and service doesn’t make readers value the man more.

Myron appears to readers as he appears to Ora: hardworking but boring.

Lewis fails to to prove that any job done superbly is a work of art.

Work of Art
By Sinclair Lewis
Doubleday, Doran, 1935
452 pages
1934 Bestseller #6
My grade: B-
 
Photo credit: Going, Going, Gone by kmg
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Published by

Linda Aragoni

I read. I write. I think. I make big ideas simple. I help teachers teach expository writing to teens and adults. In my free time, I read and review old novels.

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