Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Just Because You Should

A few months back I picked up Sinclair Lewis’s book Main Street. I really have no real reason why I did this. It’s an old book and for some reason I feel or perhaps I felt, I should read this book. Who knows? I’ve read all sorts of books because people tell me I should read them, and there have been a few I’ve picked up for no reason at all.

It could be because I live in a small town on the outskirts of absolutely nowhere. In my town we have a Main Street. And as I’m thinking about it, this is the first place I’ve ever lived with a Main Street. I mean, there have been Broadways, Front Avenues and that’s saying something. There just has never been a Main Street. The Main Street in my town is overlaid on US Hwy 287 which runs from the Canadian border in Montana all the way through to the Texas Gulf Coast. 287 is a very long road.

I’m infatuated with the Main Street in my town. In fact, Main Street is one of the top reasons to love my town. And the with all the nostalgia around Hwy 66, The Mother Road, why shouldn’t I give a few props to a lesser known, but equally as impressive Hwy 287.

This has no gravity when it comes to Sinclair Lewis or his 1920 novel Main Street or how I’m just reading it now, nearly 100 years later.

Reading the first pages I found in this novel a feeling of who cares or in today’s term, WTF? Like, who gives a shit, it all seemed very bougie to me. Initially, I was not taken with the main character Carol, a young intellectual who marries a country doctor and moves out to the sticks. Then again, the country was different in 1920.

Or was it?

Main Street proved to be one of those books that took me a good 100 pages to really get excited. After page 100, I started to get it. I started to understand the characters, Carol namely, and I started to care. Exciting novel and not just for a historical or a historically social reasons.

The question I ask, though, has Main Street, and I mean Main Street anywhere, really changed since 1920? I am no Carol, as would never consider myself intellectually cosmopolitan, but I can’t help see similarities. I mean, I live in a small plains town in Colorado. Before coming here, I was in Portland, Oregon. I came from there to here and I see certain limitations here, social and intellectual that I did not notice in Portland. I would never say that people here are less advanced than there, that would simply not be the truth. But the truth is this, the culture here and the concerns here are much different.

Books are all around us. Old books too. Sinclair Lewis old too. Main Street is a book you should read, even if just because even if you don’t have a Main Street in your town.

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