Ringgold Wilmer Lardner (March 6, 1885 – September 25, 1933) was an American sports columnist and short story writer best known for his satirical takes on the sports world, marriage, and the theatre.
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 with exactly the same name. The cousin, in turn 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 shortened it.
Lardner was married to Ellis Abbott of Goshen, Indiana in 1911. They had four sons, John, James, Ring Jr., and David. John was a newspaperman, sports columnist and magazine writer. James, also a newspaperman, was killed in the Spanish Civil War fighting with the International Brigades. Ring Lardner, Jr. was a screenwriter who was blacklisted after the Second World War as one of the Hollywood Ten, screenwriters who were incarcerated for contempt of Congress after refusing to answer questions posed by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). He won two Academy Awards for his screenplays—one before (for Woman of the Year in 1942) and one after (for M*A*S*H in 1970) his imprisonment and blacklisting. His book, The Lardners, My Family Remembered (ISBN 0-06-012517-9), is a reliable source of Lardner information. David worked for The New Yorker as a general reporter and war correspondent before he was killed by a landmine near Aachen, Germany in October 1944, less than one month after his arrival to the European Theater of war. Lardner was a grand uncle to 1993 Pulitzer Prize winner George Lardner, Jr., a journalist at The Washington Post since 1963.
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 heavy 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, leading some to classify the book as a collection of stories; others have classified it as a novel. Like most of Lardner's stories, You Know Me Al employed satire, in this case to show the stupidity and avarice of a certain type of athlete. "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", wrote Andrew Ferguson (journalist), who named it, in a Wall Street Journal article, one of the top five pieces of American humor writing.
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