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Ring Lardner To Be Inducted Into Literary Hall Of Fame At Newberry

By Ted Cox | May 2, 2017 5:57am | Updated on May 4, 2017 8:27am
 A drawing of Ring Lardner is on the cover of a collection of his
A drawing of Ring Lardner is on the cover of a collection of his "Lost Journalism" edited by former Chicago sportswriter Ron Rapoport.
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University of Nebraska Press

LINCOLN PARK — The Chicago Literary Hall of Fame has a new website and a new member this week.

The Hall of Fame unveiled a new website and a new interactive map of Chicago literary locations Monday, as it geared up for the induction of Tribune sports columnist and novelist Ring Lardner, set for Thursday at the Newberry Library, 60 W. Walton St.

Lardner, best known as the author of the classic baseball satire "You Know Me, Al," about a fictional White Sox pitcher of the 1910s named Jack Keefe, is the first of the 2016 class to be inducted. It's the seventh set of six to go in since the hall began inducting Chicago writers in 2010, so it brings the hall's membership to 42.

 Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert is also to be inducted into the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame this year.
Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert is also to be inducted into the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame this year.
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"I think this year's class is really a strong one," Executive Director Don Evans said.

One critic called Keefe a predecessor to Kenny Powers, Danny McBride's supremely self-entitled lead character in the HBO comedy "Eastbound & Down."

Lardner also wrote another classic comic novel, "The Big Town," a wicked send-up of Indiana rubes in the New York City of the Roaring '20s, and his short stories were championed by F. Scott Fitzgerald, who believed he was wasting his talents writing about sports. Even so, Lardner is in the news this spring for the publication of "The Lost Journalism of Ring Lardner," a collection of his sports writing, including his "In the Wake of the News" columns for the Trib and other pieces, edited by former Sun-Times sports columnist Ron Rapoport.

Rapoport will appear at the induction, set for 6 p.m. Thursday in Ruggles Hall at the Newberry Library (with a reception starting at 5), along with ESPN writer and editor Christina Kahrl and Tribune sportswriter Fred Mitchell, among others. It's free and open to the public. Earlier in the day, Rapoport speaks at a $30 noon luncheon at the Cliff Dwellers Club, 200 S. Michigan Ave.

The 2016 class includes Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert, novelist and playwright Margaret Ayer Barnes, Tribune critic Fanny Butcher and poets Eugene Field and Fenton Johnson. Ebert's induction is set for Aug. 19 at the American Writers Museum, Butcher's May 11 at the Newberry and Field's June 21 at the Poetry Foundation, 61 W. Superior St. Johnson's induction is set for September and Barnes' for October.

Evans said Chicago writer Stuart Dybek was part of the first selection committee and considered six a year a good start, but the committee thought it might have to trim that annual number in years to come. Evans, however, said rediscovering a writer like Field is what the Hall of Fame is all about.

Evans said Field is "all but forgotten, but during his time he was enormously popular, loved and respected, both as a newspaper columnist and as a children's poet. If we reduce the number to a couple [a year], people like him probably never get in."

In fact, as the hall's literary map points out, Field is already commemorated with a statute at Lincoln Park Zoo at 2045 N. Lincoln Park West. The base cites his perhaps most fondly remembered children's poem, "Wynken, Blynken and Nod."

Lincoln Park's Oz Park, named for L. Frank Baum's series of children's books originating with "The Wizard of Oz," also gets a map citation.

The new website was funded by a grant from Illinois Humanities. Evans said it gives the hall the capability to expand both the site and the map going forward.