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It Can't Happen Here (Signet Classics) Mass Market Paperback


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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Signet Classics (March 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451529294
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451529299
  • Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 4.2 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (99 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #531,162 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

A message to thinking Americans. -- Springfield Republican

Not only [Lewis's] most important book but one of the most important books ever produced in this country. -- The New Yorker

Written at white heat. -- Chicago Tribune --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Sinclair Lewis was born in 1885 in Sauk Centre, Minnesota, and graduated from Yale University in 1908. His college career was interrupted by various part-time occupations, including a period working at the Helicon Home Colony, Upton Sinclair’s socialist experiment in New Jersey. He worked for some years as a free lance editor and journalist, during which time he published several minor novels. But with the publication of Main Street (1920), which sold half a million copies, he achieved wide recognition. This was followed by the two novels considered by many to be his finest, Babbitt (1922) and Arrowsmith (1925), which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1926, but declined by Lewis. In 1930, following Elmer Gantry (1927) and Dodsworth (1929), Sinclair Lewis became the first American author to be awarded the Nobel Prize for distinction in world literature. This was the apogee of his literary career, and in the period from Ann Vickers (1933) to the posthumously published World So Wide (1951) Lewis wrote ten novels that reveal the progressive decline of his creative powers. From Main Street to Stockholm, a collection of his letters, was published in 1952, and The Man from Main Street, a collection of essays, in 1953. During his last years Sinclair Lewis wandered extensively in Europe, and after his death in Rome in 1951 his ashes were returned to his birthplace.

More About the Author

Sinclair Lewis was born in 1885 in Sauk Centre, Minnesota, and graduated from Yale University in 1908. His college career was interrupted by various part-time occupations, including a period working at the Helicon Home Colony, Upton Sinclair's socialist experiment in New Jersey. He worked for some years as a free lance editor and journalist, during which time he published several minor novels. But with the publication of Main Street (1920), which sold half a million copies, he achieved wide recognition. This was followed by the two novels considered by many to be his finest, Babbitt (1922) and Arrowsmith (1925), which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1926, but declined by Lewis. In 1930, following Elmer Gantry (1927) and Dodsworth (1929), Sinclair Lewis became the first American author to be awarded the Nobel Prize for distinction in world literature. This was the apogee of his literary career, and in the period from Ann Vickers (1933) to the posthumously published World So Wide (1951) Lewis wrote ten novels that reveal the progressive decline of his creative powers. From Main Street to Stockholm, a collection of his letters, was published in 1952, and The Man from Main Street, a collection of essays, in 1953. During his last years Sinclair Lewis wandered extensively in Europe, and after his death in Rome in 1951 his ashes were returned to his birthplace.

Customer Reviews

This book lays out step by step how what can't happen can happen.
bentsnake
Today many Americans sense that great economic, political and social change is coming and they are looking for ways to visualize what dangers might lie ahead.
Preston Fleming (Author of Forty Days at Kamas)
Good read of how any democracy can be subverted into a fascist state.
Mr Sanjay Perera

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

388 of 407 people found the following review helpful By Chuck Haberl on December 8, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Surprisingly, Sinclair Lewis' darkly humorous tale of a fascist takeover in the US, "It Can't Happen Here," is not merely out-of-print, but also quite hard to find. As dated as it is (1935), its themes will be quite familiar to Americans today. It starts with the highly contested election of an oafish yet strangely charismatic president, who talks like a "reformer" but is really in the pocket of big business, who claims to be a home-spun "humanist," while appealing to religious extremists, and who speaks of "liberating" women and minorities, as he gradually strips them of all their rights. One character, when describing him, says, "I can't tell if he's a crook or a religious fanatic."
After he becomes elected, he puts the media - at that time, radio and newspapers - under the supervision of the military and slowly begins buying up or closing down media outlets. William Randolph Hearst, the Rupert Murdoch of his times, directs his newspapers to heap unqualified praise upon the president and his policies, and gradually comes to develop a special relationship with the government. The president, taking advantage of an economic crisis, strong-arms Congress into signing blank checks over to the military and passing stringent and possibly unconstitutional laws, e.g. punishing universities when they don't permit military recruiting or are not vociferous enough in their approval of his policies. Eventually, he takes advantage of the crisis to convene military tribunals for civilians, and denounce all of his detractors as unpatriotic and possibly treasonous.
I'll stop here, as I don't want to ruin the story -- I can imagine that you can see where all this is going.
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60 of 61 people found the following review helpful By Lawrence Kwong on September 1, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Sinclair Lewis' greatest achievement with "It Can't Happen Here" is his ability to reflect the subtle holds that Fascism can take in an otherwise rational and democratic country. Each step of the plot, no matter how seemingly insignificant or unrelated, contributes to the inevitable political conclusion. As the story progresses, it gradually becomes clearer to the reader how our individual prejudices and selfish desires can collectively turn us against the very freedom America prides itself upon.
Fascism is here viewed as an implosion of American culture: the weight of mass media, of the desire for security and comfort, and of endemic nationalism caves in at the touch of a charismatic politician. Lewis exposes the weaknesses in our country's foundations; he shows a careful yet precarious balance of society and politics where we otherwise think we are solid. As others have noted, this book preceded the rise of Nazism in Europe. It is a testament to Lewis' grasp of fascism that much of his novel was mirrored in the chaotic climate of 1930's Germany and Italy.
Where the book falters, however, is in some of its more outlandish caricatures of the villains, including orgies, bed-time assassins, and overwrought speeches. Despite the power of these metaphors, they weaken the plausibility of "it can happen here." Nonetheless, this novel serves as an excellent warning against the dangers of cults of personality and of mob mentality. I strongly recommend "It Can't Happen Here" to remind anyone that the freedom of thought should not be taken for granted.
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131 of 143 people found the following review helpful By Quaker Annie on June 13, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
....it can happen here. Anyone who is aware of current news and political issues and history, will find this book, written in the 1930's, to be astonishing. I read this in high school, and remembered it years later when I was putting books on my web page. Why did I remember it? Sinclair Lewis wrote this long before the world became aware of what was going on in Nazi Germany. This illustrates the often ignored fact that we can tell what is going on around us, if only we listen to the signs and signals, and stop burying our heads in..oh, well, in books and the internet and TV shows. He takes the story to America, where people's response to what's going on in the world is "It Can't Happen Here" (not that any of us would say that these days...). Anything that Can't Happen Here, then, isn't our problem. Until, of course, it happens here...
This is a good book to read if you like messages in your fiction - (did you enjoy reading "The Lottery?")
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59 of 64 people found the following review helpful By wiredweird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on December 2, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
To quote one of the characters early on: "Like h*ll it can't."

Windrip is the charismatic politician: a great showman, but not comfortable when people use big words. He's swept into office on a tide of revival tent enthusiasm and anti-intellectual popularism. He promises a pot of money for everyone, and (this is the 1930s, remember) promises to put in their place all the right minorities with the strong arm of his loyal followers. Of course people vote for riches for everyone - or at least, everyone who matters.

Then he's in. The loyal followers become a private army, answerable to no one. The nation is redrawn into a network of concentration camps, prisons, labor camps, and terrified citizenry. The bulk of the book documents the incredibly rapid decline into barbarity. Despite the crushing tyrrany, a resistance emerge, and among people who might not have looked very brave. Without giving any spoilers, the end is ambiguous but optimistic.

The first half of the book is pretty much guaranteed to give you that sinking feeling if you've read the news in (or about) the America of Pres. Bush II. The rise of fundamentalist Christians as a political force has a familiar sound to it. So does the the discussion of "... when the hick legislators in certain states ... set up shop as scientific experts and made the whole world laugh itself sick by forbidding the teaching of evolution."

I want this book to be irrelevant. I want people to look at it and ask "what is he talking about? who could believe even the first word of it?" I want its warning to be forgotten by people who no longer need to be warned. The fact is that this 70 year old book still as relevant, familiar, and as urgent as ever. This book still matters - or should.

//wiredweird
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