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It Can't Happen Here Mass Market Paperback – September 1, 1993

4.2 out of 5 stars 253 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Novel by Sinclair Lewis, published in 1935. It is a cautionary tale about the rise of fascism in the United States. During the presidential election of 1936, Doremus Jessup, a newspaper editor, observes with dismay that many of the people he knows support the candidacy of a fascist, Berzelius Windrip. When Windrip wins the election, he forcibly gains control of Congress and the Supreme Court, and, with the aid of his personal paramilitary storm troopers, turns the United States into a totalitarian state. Jessup opposes him, is captured, and escapes to Canada. -- The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature

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.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Signet Classics (September 1, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451525825
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451525826
  • Product Dimensions: 4.3 x 0.8 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (253 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #523,439 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
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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