|Born||Ringgold Wilmer Lardner|
March 5, 1885
Niles, Michigan, United States
|Died||September 25, 1933 48) (aged|
East Hampton, New York, United States
|Children||John, James, Ring Jr., and David.|
Ringgold Wilmer "Ring" Lardner (March 5, 1885– September 25, 1933) was an American sports columnist and short story writer best known for his satirical writings on sports, marriage, and the theatre. His contemporaries Ernest Hemingway, Virginia Woolf, and F. Scott Fitzgerald all professed strong admiration for his writing, and author John O'Hara directly attributed his understanding of dialogue to him.
Lardner started his writing career as a sports columnist, finding work with the newspaper South Bend Times in 1905. In 1907, he relocated to Chicago, where he got a job with the Inter-Ocean. Within a year, he quit to work for the Chicago Examiner , and then for the Tribune .Two years later, Lardner was in St. Louis, writing the humorous baseball column Pullman Pastimes for Taylor Spink and the Sporting News . Some of this work was the basis for his book You Know Me, Al. Within three months, he was an employee of the Boston American .
In 1913, Lardner returned to the Chicago Tribune, which became the home newspaper for his syndicated column In the Wake of the News (started by Hugh Keough, who had died in 1912). The column appeared in more than 100 newspapers, and is still published in the Tribune. Lardner's Tribune and syndicated writing was not exclusively sports related: his dispatches from/near the World War One front were collected in the book My Four Weeks in France, and his immersive coverage of the 1920 Democratic Convention resulted in Lardner receiving 0.5 votes on the 23rd ballot.
In 1916, Lardner published his first successful book, You Know Me Al , an epistolary novel written in the form of letters by "Jack Keefe", a bush-league baseball player, to a friend back home. The letters made much use of the fictional author's idiosyncratic vernacular. It had initially been published as six separate but interrelated short stories in The Saturday Evening Post , causing some to classify the book as a collection of stories, others as a novel. Like most of Lardner's stories, You Know Me Al employs satire, in this case, to show the stupidity and avarice of a certain type of athlete. The journalist Andrew Ferguson wrote that "Ring Lardner thought of himself as primarily a sports columnist whose stuff wasn't destined to last, and he held to that absurd belief even after his first masterpiece, You Know Me Al, was published in 1916 and earned the awed appreciation of Virginia Woolf, among other very serious, unfunny people." Ferguson termed the book one of the top five pieces of American humor writing.
Sarah Bembrey has written about a singular event in Lardner's sportswriting experience: "In 1919 something happened that changed his way of reporting about sports and changed his love for baseball. This was the Black Sox scandal when the Chicago White Sox sold out the World Series to the Cincinnati Reds. Ring was exceptionally close to the White Sox and felt he was betrayed by the team. After the scandal, Ring always wrote about sports as if there were some kink to the outcome."Lardner's last fictional baseball writing was collected in the book Lose with a Smile (1933).
Lardner later published such stories as "Haircut", "Some Like Them Cold", "The Golden Honeymoon", "Alibi Ike", and "A Day with Conrad Green." He also continued to write follow-up stories to You Know Me Al, with the protagonist of that book, the headstrong but gullible Jack Keefe, experiencing various ups and downs in his major league career and in his personal life. Private Keefe's World War I training camp letters home to his friend Al were collected in the book Treat 'Em Rough: Letters From Jack the Kaiser Killer. The sequel, The Real Dope, followed Keefe overseas to the trenches in France.
Lardner also had a lifelong fascination with the theatre, although his only Broadway three-act successes were the thrice-filmed Elmer The Great, co-written with George M. Cohan, and June Moon , a comedy authored with Broadway veteran George S. Kaufman. Lardner also wrote skits for the Ziegfeld Follies. and a series of brief nonsense plays that ridiculed the conventions of the theatre using zany humor and outrageous, impossible stage directions, such as "The curtain is lowered for seven days to denote the lapse of a week."
He was a dedicated composer and lyricist: both his first – Zanzibar (1903) – and last – June Moon (1929) – published stage works included several Lardner tunes. He wrote at least one recorded song for Bert Williams, co-wrote one for Nora Bayes, and provided the lyrics for the song "That Old Quartet" (1913) by Nathaniel D. Mann. Other collaborators of note included Aubrey Stauffer, Jerome Kern on Very Good Eddie (1915), and Vincent Youmans – with whom he toiled on the Ziegfeld - Marilyn Miller - Astaires musical, Smiles (1930).
Lardner's books were published by Maxwell Perkins, who also edited Lardner's most important contemporaries, including Fitzgerald who, unlike Hemingway,also became Lardner's friend. Although Lardner held his own short stories in sufficiently low regard, he did not save copies, and had to get copies from the magazines who had first published them to compile a book, Lardner influenced several of his more famous peers:
Born in Niles, Michigan, Ring Lardner was the son of wealthy parents, Henry and Lena Phillips Lardner. He was the youngest of nine children. Lardner's name came from a cousin of the same name. The cousin had been named by Lardner's uncle, Rear Admiral James L. Lardner, who had decided to name his son after a friend, Rear Admiral Cadwalader Ringgold, who was from a distinguished military family. Lardner never liked his given name and abbreviated it to Ring, naming one of his sons Ring Jr.
In childhood he wore a brace for his deformed foot until he was eleven. He also had a passion for baseball, stage, and music.He later attended the Armour Institute in Chicago.
Lardner married Ellis Abbott of Goshen, Indiana, in 1911. They had four sons, John, James, Ring Jr., and David, all of whom became professional writers.
Lardner died on September 25, 1933, at the age of 48 in East Hampton, New York, of a heart attack due to complications from tuberculosis.
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