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

4.3 out of 5 stars 90 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Nobel Prize-winning writer Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951) is best known for novels like Main Street, Babbitt, Arrowsmith (for which he was awarded but declined the Pulitzer Prize), and Elmer Gantry. A writer from his youth, Lewis wrote for and edited the Yale Literary Magazine while a student, and started his literary career writing popular stories for magazines and selling plots to other writers like Jack London. Lewis s talent for description and creating unique characters won him the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1930, making him the first American writer to win the prestigious award. Considered to be one of the greats of American literature, Lewis was honoured with a Great Americans series postage stamp, and his work has been adapted for both stage and screen.

Christopher Hurt is an accomplished narrator with a lengthy resume of popular titles for Blackstone. A graduate of George Washington University s acting program, he currently resides in New York City. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

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
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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: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (90 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,456,772 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: 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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