Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Ring Lardner wrote You Know Me Al

Ring Lardner
It is the birthday of writer Ring Lardner (1885), who is remembered for his novel You Know Me Al (1916), a collection of satirical vernacular letters by a fictional bush league baseball player to his friend back home in Indiana. The series first appeared in The Saturday Evening Post in 1914. Lardner also wrote many short stories, including The Golden Honeymoon (1922), an amusing tale of a retired couple who travels by train to St. Petersburg for vacation.

For many years, Lardner wrote the nationally syndicated column In the Wake of the News for the Chicago Tribune. The column appeared in more than 100 newspapers around the country and made Lardner a household name. When the Black Sox scandal broke in 1919, Lardner felt betrayed by his beloved Chicago White Sox. Some White Sox players, it developed, had taken bribes to make sure the Sox lost to the Cincinnati Reds in the World Series that year.

Lardner was friends with F. Scott Fitzgerald and other contemporary writers. Famed editor Max Perkins worked with both of them. Perkins introduced Lardner to Ernest Hemingway, who had tried to emulate Lardner's style back in high school. However, no friendship developed between Lardner and Hemingway. English writer Virginia Woolf admired Lardner's writing, and he was considered one of the best humorists in America in his time.

Lardner collaborated with Broadway playwright George S. Kaufman to write June Moon, a comedy love story with lyrics and music by Lardner. It was a Tin Pan Alley romance based on Lardner's short story Some Like Them Cold. It was adapted for a 1937 film called Blonde Trouble. It was adapted for the live CBS television anthology program Studio One in 1949 and again, in 1974, for PBS.

Lardner got started as a sports reporter by stealing a job from his brother. Ring was working as a bookkeeper for a gas company in South Bend, Indiana, where his brother worked while moonlighting as a corespondent for The South Bend Times. A man from the paper came to offer the brother a staff job but Ring intercepted the message, told the man that his brother was locked in a contract he couldn't break, and offered himself as an alternative. Ring Lardner was hired and began his career in the newspaper business.

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