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It Can't Happen Here Paperback – October 4, 2005

4.2 out of 5 stars 93 customer reviews

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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

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.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: NAL Trade; Reprint edition (October 4, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 045121658X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451216588
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #51,091 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This novel is a classic, with many themes we see in the world today. Highly recommended.

This review is for the Penguin / Amazon edition here. For $8 and from a major publisher, one should be able to expect that the book would have been proof-read. Clearly this is NOT the case. There are a huge number of typos and garbled text scattered through this edition. It's worse than many self-published unedited books I've bought. Do NOT buy this until Amazon comes out with a corrected version!
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The price of $7.99, happily paid for this Lewis' kindle, is so much cheaper than the heavy price of my first clandestine acquaintance with the same book during the years of my USSR youth in the fifties: it well could be from 5 to 7 years in labor camps, so I was really lucky then to escape this punishment, given for any anti-Soviet reading. Well, Mr. Lewis himself had nothing to do with such an interpretation of the book: he was writing about the threat of fascism, not of socialism. But Stalin's censors were quite shrewd in their understanding that practice of fascist hell in America would look just a bit too familiar for readers in a socialist paradise here. I have no boldness to comment the excellent book itself (it's about the same as to comment Dostoyevsky's "The Possessed", which was as clear warning about horrors of Communism for the Russian readers). Unfortunately, neither masterpiece was believed by their respective societies, so the best comments to them are made now not by readers, but by life. Now it's a life, which is very different from the thirties: though terms like "fascism", "capitalism" or "socialism" are still widely used, but for the majority of our politicians (both in the USA and elsewhere) they are hardly anything today but a purely technological means to hide their lust for immense power and immense wealth. That's – for modern politicians. As for modern voters – I can't agree with Mr. Gary Scharnhorst's afterword: "Lewis’s message— his protest of middle-class complacency and intellectual regimentation, what we today call “political correctness” on both the left and the right— remains as relevant and timely as ever". With all my love to optimism, I think that in our sad reality this book isn't timely any more.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have read many, many books in my time, but this stands out as one of the few that really chilled me to my core. Lewis' presentation of an American dictatorship is shocking in how plausible it really is. It is also amazing to me how prophetic this work was, considering it was published well before WWII got going and when Hitler was not the villain to Americans that he is today. I highly recommend this book as both a highly engaging read and a prophetic reminder that Democracy must be defended against those that would subvert it.
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Format: Paperback
Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951) was on-target with this raw look at the dangers of Fascism taking hold in the USA. In these frightful pages an unscrupulous Buzz Windrip is elected President in 1936 on a platform of Corpism - giving all jobless work and each family $5,000. Once elected, Windrup uses his personal police force (Minute Men) to arrest Congress after they refuse to surrender their power. Soon there is martial law, with the Minute Men running forced labor camps for jobless, and concentration camps and special courts for dissenters. Witnessing this is newspaperman Doremus Jessup from Vermont, plus his friends and neighbors. After trying to flee to Canada, Jessup ends up in a Concentration camp. There his fellow prisoners are beaten, urged to turn in their friends, and sometimes shot without trial. After two years of this nightmare, a ray of hope appears. President Windrup is deposed in a coup, his even-worse desposer is murdered in another, and a sort of revolution begins seeking to restore Democracy to the USA.

Sinclair Lewis wrote this book in 1935, two years after Hitler grabbed total power in Germany during the Great Depression. The parallels to Nazi Germany are obvious (Corpos=Nazis, Minute Men=Gestapo). Too bad few saw the danger as clearly as this author. Lewis has a slightly thick style, but these pages soon fly past the reader, and remain a solid reminder of the fragile nature of democracy and freedom.
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Format: Paperback
Sinclair Lewis wrote It Can't Happen Here in 1935 to warn Americans about fascism. Many Americans had similar feelings to the Fort Beulah friends of Doremus Jessup: fascism could not happen here. There are enough similarities between Buzz Windrip, the American fascist elected president in the novel, and the Louisiana senator Huey P. Long, for people to wonder if Sinclair Lewis was referring to the Kingfish.

In reality, Lewis was more concerned about someone like Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler than Huey Long. He believed that an American fascist would appear as a defender of liberty and freedom, cloaked in nationalism. Adolf Hitler took control of Germany through free elections, and gradually reduced dissent through his secret police under the cloak of socialism. He played on the public's fear of communists by first eliminating them. Gradually, he expanded his definition of a threat until nearly everyone came under suspicion, including socialists.

The novel begins with many references to obscure figures of the 1930s. Much like readers of today know of the Octomom, the audience of the Depression knew of the Dionne quintuplets. The reference was not obscure when Lewis wrote the novel, but it is today. Fifty years from now, people will remember Nadya Suleman as well as today's readers know the Dionnes. A reader will probably be able to enjoy the novel without understanding some of these references, but - if you are like me - you'll want to know them. The Wikipedia on the internet proved to be an invaluable resource for such a task.

Governor Eugene Tallmadge of Georgia declared martial law during a textile strike. Cotton Tom Heflin was a white supremacist senator from Alabama. Floyd Olson was elected Governor of Minnesota on a populist-labor stance.
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