Refusing the Serious: Authorial Resistance in Ring Lardner’s Prefaces for Scribner’s

  • Ross K. Tangedal (University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point)


Though already famous, wealthy, and squarely established as a popular chronicler of the early twentieth century, humorist Ring Lardner’s foray into a serious literary career with Charles Scribner’s Sons Publishing Company is best characterized as an act of authorial resistance. Rather than evolve into the “serious” author the firm had hoped for, Lardner chose to lampoon himself, authorship, publishing, and serious writers with a series of prefaces written for his Scribner’s titles. In the prefaces to How to Write Short Stories (with Samples) (1924) and The Love Nest and Other Stories (1926), Lardner resisted overtures to rebrand and remarket himself by reminding the public of his strengths: satire, comedy, and manipulation. The result: pieces as textually nonsensical and arbitrary as many of his writings on the surface, yet carefully constructed to expose the underside of socio-cultural mores, the publishing industry, and the fraternity of “serious” writers he never intended to join.

Keywords: Ross Tangedal, Ring Lardner, Scribner, How to Write Short Stories, The Love Nest and Other Stories, Max Perkins, F. Scott Fitzgerald, authorial resistance

How to Cite:

Tangedal, R., (2016) “Refusing the Serious: Authorial Resistance in Ring Lardner’s Prefaces for Scribner’s”, Authorship 5(2). doi:

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Published on
22 Dec 2016
Peer Reviewed