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Babbitt Paperback – August 25, 2013

4.1 out of 5 stars 87 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"[It is] by its hardness, its efficiency, its compactness that Mr. Lewis's work excels." ---Virginia Woolf --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Sinclair Lewis was an American playwright and novelist. Born in 1885, he received his bachelor's degree from Yale University in 1908 and published his first novel, Hike and the Aeroplane, in 1912. He published Babbitt, perhaps his most fanous work, in 1922 and in 1926 he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his novel Arrowsmith but rejected it. In 1930 he was the first American to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. He died in Rome, in 1951, and his last novel World So Wide was published posthumously.
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The latest book club pick from Oprah
"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent novel chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more

Product Details

  • Paperback: 380 pages
  • Publisher: Babbitt Press (August 25, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1619493039
  • ISBN-13: 978-1619493032
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (87 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #229,103 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Ryan C. Holiday VINE VOICE on May 2, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I don't think there was anyone in the 1920s who would have believed that this book would be completely forgotten. By all accounts, it was destined to be a classic critical novel of the American experience. You can't read anything about the '20s and '30s that doesn't comment on Babbitt (sold 130,000 copies its first year, HL Mecken loved it, it won Lewis a Nobel Prize). Calling someone a "Babbitt" was considered an insult and the phrase became a constant topic of conversation in the media and literature.

Yet, here we are 80 years later, and you've probably never heard of the term or the book. Even English and history teachers pretend it doesn't exist. I don't know why, it's insightful and funny. Perhaps it's because the biting satire of American suburban middle class life cuts deeper now than it did then. We prefer the glamour of Fitzgerald's jazz age to the notion that "the American Dream" is more often pursued and achieved with painful earnestness by unaware buffoons than anyone else.

The book is a little tough to get into at first because of the '20s style newspaper-speak, but get through it--it's worth it. It doesn't matter if the book is old or out of style, at its core it's about the fight against conformity and a critique of what Thoreau called the "life of quiet desperation."

It's as timely as ever, as far I'm concerned.
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Format: Paperback
Sinclair Lewis' 1922 novel/expose highlights the shallowness and greed of middle class American business--to the delight of European audiences already disenchanted with America's rise to world greatness. The first 75-80 pages make for slow reading as they chronicle 24 hours in the life of George F. Babbitt of Zenith--a fictitious, Eastern city. A professional realtor and natural born hustler, this budding orator bullies his subordinates, plays the good old boy with his pals at the Athletic Club, and is kindly tolerated by his wife, but neither respected nor obeyed by his two older children. The joys of his life are his ten-year-old daughter and his college buddy, Paul. A slave to cigars and alcohol, this would-be tycoon is haunted at night by a secret, recurring dream about a fairy girl/woman who adores him. Although cognizant of the allures of various women in his office and social world, he has managed to steer a stolid moral course throughout his marriage.

Despite his questionable business practices and private lusts this protagonist proves not entirely unsympathetic; his problems, as well as his temptations, are real and demanding. His failures and moral stumbling do not endear readers to his cause, but serve to make him less than despicable. Unsuccessful in his pathetic bids to climb socially, Babbitt (whom the author always refers to by his surname) gradually begins to break free of his marital cage--to the shock of his colleagues, neighbors and family. He experiments with affairs, espouses radical social and political crusades, and argues with the old boys who have long relied on him. No longer ssatisfied with his fantasy visions, he revels in social, political and marital debauchery, viewing
himself with pride as a man struggling to be himself at last.
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Format: Paperback
In April 1920 George F. Babbitt was a moderately successful, reasonably honest real estate man in a mythical Midwestern American industrial city of Zenith. Seeing himself of a virtuous small town, Catawba, Babbitt rose to become a college graduate, a married man and a father of three. He was a joiner (Elks, Boosters), political activist (Republican precinct leader), churchman (Presbyterian) and believer in the power and beauty of advertising. Over the next year or so, George or "Georgie" became favorably noticed by his betters, through previously muted oratorical and advocacy skills. But as he rose in public and kingmakers' esteem, he also stumbled by admitting weakly to a certain sympathy (but not solidarity) with labor unions, strikers and a radical local lawyer, college friend Seneca Doane.
Babbitt is successful in a way most Americans would envy yet plagued by uncertainty. He has gone about life unthinkingly for years but is suddenly haunted by dissatisfaction and a dreadful feeling of hollowness. He exposes American society as not only superficial but largely artificial, dominated by crass, anti-intellectual commercialism and unthinking conservatism.
Babbitt also searchingly dramatizes a range of other related and important issues, including masculinity, femininity and feminism), religion (the focus of Lewis' later Elmer Gantry), race, and class. It is often satirical but sometimes thought-provoking and sometimes tragic. Lewis is typically called a satirist, but this sells him rather short; his range is significantly wider, but even more important is his strong artistic skill. The episodic plotting that many criticize him for is mostly gone; Babbitt initially seems episodic, but a closer look reveals a very deliberate progression.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Lewis is one of my favorite authors of all-time.

This look into suburbia and middle-class American values looks at a business man living in the 1920s, but echoes at so many points with our culture today. Lewis has an eye for detail and is great at painting a picture. His subversive take on the shortcomings of the American Dream make this a fascinating read.
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