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He was twice winner of the Pulitzer Prize in fiction: in 1919 for The Magnificent Ambersons and in 1922 for Alice Adams. His play, Clarence, launched Alfred Lunt on his distinguished career and provided Helen Hays with an early successful role. His Penrod books continued the American boy story tradition that started with the works of Mark Twain. In the early 1900s, through his novel The Turmoil, he warned of sacrificing the environment to industrial growth. Yet, since his death in 1946, Booth Tarkington—this writer from the Midwest who accomplished so much—has faded from the memory of the reading public, and many of his works are out of print.

But his memory is fresh and vivid in the mind of his grandniece Susanah Mayberry, and her recollections of him leap from the pages. She recalls that as a small child, before she was aware of her uncle’s fame as a writer, he emerged as the one figure whose outline was clear among the blur of forms that made up her large family.

The author of My Amiable Uncle draws primarily upon personal experiences, family lore, and letters (some never before published) to portray her uncle. She tells of the pleasure it gave him to entertain his young nephews and nieces at his Tudor-style winter home in Indianapolis—where they played a spirited form of charades. She recalls vacations, as a college student, spent at his light-filled summer home in Kennebunkport, Maine—where she met his famous neighbors. During all of those times, Uncle Booth was a keen observer of youth. He created Penrod and friends from his observations, and as a teacher of youth, transmitted his own love of art to his young relations.

The book will appeal to the general reader and the scholar. The former will be charmed by the reminiscences, and the latter will be interested in the new information about this writer of distinction. All readers will appreciate the substantial introduction to the volume by James Woodress, who places Tarkington within his literary milieu while reviewing his major works.

Indiana residents will feel “at home” with the frequent references to the state and its people. Indianapolis influenced Tarkington and his work—the city was his birthplace. He spent a year at Purdue University where he met such “brilliancies” as George Ade and John McCutcheon. Other famous and not-so-famous Hoosiers became a part of Tarkington’s life, and they—along with international literary, theatrical, and political luminaries—reappear in Mayberry’s recollections of her amiable uncle.


9781557539519 (ePDF)

Publication Date

Summer 8-15-2019


Purdue Research Foundation


West Lafayette


Booth Tarkington, writer, Pulitzer Prize, Midwest, Indiana




This book was brought back into circulation thanks to the generous support of Purdue University’s Sesquicentennial Committee.

My Amiable Uncle: Recollections about Booth Tarkington

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