When Audiences Come To See Authors Lecture, It Is Largely in the Hope That We’ll Be Funnier To Look at Than To Read

Sinclair Lewis? Max Herzberg? Bennett Cerf? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The American writer, social activist, and noble laureate Sinclair Lewis wondered why big audiences came to hear lectures given by authors. He humorously suggested that attendees might be hoping to see funny looking authors. Is Lewis’s self-deprecating observation genuine?

Quote Investigator: In 1938 Sinclair Lewis wrote an essay in “Newsweek” magazine titled “That Was a Good Lecture” which discussed speeches delivered by book authors. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI 1

I can understand why lecture addicts go to look at British explorers, Russian princesses, and Balinese dancers, because they have pretty lantern slides or tiaras or legs. But it is incomprehensible why in fairly large numbers they flock out to view a novelist or a poet. Is it because they hope he will be even funnier to look at than to read?

The joke was not presented in an easily quotable form. Lewis employed a prefatory comment followed by a rhetorical question.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading When Audiences Come To See Authors Lecture, It Is Largely in the Hope That We’ll Be Funnier To Look at Than To Read

Notes:

  1. 1938 March 28, Newsweek, Book Week: That Was a Good Lecture by Sinclair Lewis, Start Page 30, Quote Page 30, Published by Weekly Publications Inc., New York. (Verified with scans)