Ring Lardner's position in American literature suffers more from the praise he gains than the criticism he receives. His reputation as an acerbic journalist, mordant satirist, master dialectician, and popular sportswriter still draws clouds of suspicion across the minds of highbrow critics weighing his stature as a serious writer.
Lardner himself did nothing to debunk the notion that he was at heart a pulp author, never tearing away from his journalistic roots as did other authors who started their careers in the newspaper business. It may have been comfort with his preferred environment, or a reverse snobbery, but Lardner always disdained self-conscious artfulness, instead preening his image as a wordsmith and copy-slave. Max Perkins, his Scribner's editor, noted this self-defined lowbrow posture: “He always thought of himself as a newspaperman, anyhow. He had a sort of provincial scorn for literary people.”
Provincial scorn notwithstanding, Lardner was a prominent member of Perkins's stable. Contemporaries at Scribner's included Thomas Wolfe, Ernest Hemingway, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Perkins, a literary talent scout with a knack for coaxing maximum output from mercurial writers, devoted ample time and attention to cultivating Lardner's work. Few writers of any stripe could boast more lustrous friends and colleagues, and, in his lifetime, Lardner's proper place in the American literary pantheon was accorded with scant complaint. It was only after his death in 1933 that the diminishing process began.