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It Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis
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It Can't Happen Here (1935)

by Sinclair Lewis

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,948525,013 (3.8)110
  1. 30
    The Plot Against America by Philip Roth (sturlington)
  2. 00
    The Despot's Apprentice: Donald Trump's Attack on Democracy by Brian Klaas (ghr4)
  3. 00
    President Fu Manchu by Sax Rohmer (Lammers)
    Lammers: A unique literary and historical view of the fears and uncertainties surrounding the 1936 Presidential election.
  4. 00
    The Great Pacific War: A History of the American-Japanese Campaign of 1931-1933 by Hector C. Bywater (Lammers)
    Lammers: Though it reads like Alternative History today, the book shows very nicely what people in the 1920s and 1930s could happen in the very near future.
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English (50)  Hebrew (1)  French (1)  All languages (52)
Showing 1-5 of 50 (next | show all)
A chilling warning not to take democracy for granted. This sharp satire follows the rise of an American fascist. We see events through the eyes of Doremus Jessup, a small-town newspaper editor who witnesses the election of Berzelius "Buzz" Windrip in 1936. A colorful politician based on Huey Long, the controversial Louisiana politician, Windrip triumphs on a platform of populist reforms and traditional values. However, he leads the transformation of the government into a totalitarian state ruled by fear and enforced by the blue-clad Minute Men, an American version of the Nazi Brownshirts. We follow Doremus's bitter struggle against the government and his role in the resistance. The book is an alarming reminder that American freedoms are fragile and is still relevant today. ( )
  trile1000 | Jul 1, 2018 |
Powerful Dystopian Political Novel

What seems at first a farce with a snicker, surprises over the course of the story into a dark Dystopian alternative history of the United States. It remains relevant and frightening, with a main character who is too good willed to believe that a Fascist dictatorship can happen and thus becomes ne of its enablers. He redeems himself by becoming a rebel, a political prisoner, and eventually an agent. The novel does not end with an easy resurrection of American democracy, but is hopeful in its inconclusive final chapter. ( )
  dasam | Jun 21, 2018 |
https://nwhyte.livejournal.com/2944131.html

a near future history of a far-right takeover in the USA in the mid-1930s, which of course seems all too relevant today. Buzz Windrip, a populist governor who is clearly related to the real-life Huey Long, displaces Franklin Roosevelt as the Democratic candidate in 1936 and wins the election on a platform of guaranteeing every man a basic income, unless they are black in which case they get a maximum income, and basically making America great again. Within days of his inauguration, he removes Congress and the Supreme Court and rules supreme. Like Hitler, Windrip co-opts partners on the way up and casually tosses them aside once he has got there. Meanwhile, repression of anyone who resists or criticises the regime becomes the state's most visible interaction with its citizens. The only thing missing is genocide, though the treatment of black Americans comes close. The hero is Vermont liberal journalist Doremus Jessup, whose family and lover feel the brunt of the new regime at first hand; he endures a hellish time in a prison camp before escaping and joining the resistance as the regime crumbles.

Obviously one looks for parallels to the current US situation. It's not as bad as Lewis's world. Most notably, there is no militia out there employing violence to further the president's agenda. Congress and the Supreme Court may be pretty awful, but they are not under White House control either. Windrip's master of propaganda, Lee Sarason, becomes Secretary of State and then displaces him completely, whereas Steve Bannon has now been relegated to the outer darkness. Basically the Trump administration is nothing like as competent as the Windrip administration - also of course nothing like as popular; Windrip wins the election handsomely whereas Trump lost the popular vote. ( )
  nwhyte | Mar 11, 2018 |
It Can’t Happen Here, Sinclair Lewis, author; Grover Gardner, narrator
The time is 1936. The Depression is a nightmare memory which has changed the mood of the country. There is political unrest, a charged atmosphere of distrust for government officials, anger at rich corporate giants, and a general somber malaise is hanging over America. Political candidates represent the people’s fears, and one in particular appeals to their emotions by stressing the idea of helping “the forgotten man”. Although there are those that find his diatribes unbecoming, because of his racist and anti-Semitic remarks, there are more who seem to be glomming on to his message of hope and equal, economic opportunity for those who feel left behind.
Socialism, Fascism, Communism and Capitalism are on the radar of all voters. Which ideology will be chosen in this country overrun by opinion and nationalism, where certain groups of people are being vilified and ostracized and others praised as more worthy? Each major party accuses the other of wrongdoing, of being fascists.
In the novel, Hitler is becoming more popular in Europe and in America where FDR is facing a myriad of other Presidential pretenders. When the Socialist Brezelius Windrip defeats him and is elected President, there is disbelief. Soon, all Hell breaks loose as he begins to change the face of the country. He wants to give everyone $5000 a year as a minimum, standard wage, (but he doesn’t. He makes promises to promote health care and provide free education. He offers pipe dreams that cannot be fulfilled, and when he is swept into office, with a country divided for and against him, he merely eliminates his detractors using his volunteer band of supporters called Minute Men. He immediately arms and begins to pay them. They eagerly remove those who defy him, by any means they choose. Congress and the Supreme Court Justices are arrested. The M.M.’s, as they are called, are thugs who indiscriminately and gleefully used their power to brutalize and abuse those who formerly had power over them.
Windrip used old venerable institutions of education as prisons and created concentration camps. By eliminating those that would not acquiesce to his demands, by putting them into work camps or murdering them after using barbaric methods of torture to get them to confess to crimes or rethink their positions, he gained more and more power. Rebellion was almost impossible as it was easy to suppress. When some well known and respected citizens were arrested and killed for no apparent reason, few protested lest it happen to them too. Racist and anti-Semitic laws were passed. If one disobeyed, arbitrary punishment and horrific methods of torture were used. Windrip’s minion’s brutality rivaled Hitler’s.
As people came to their senses, realizing that no one was safe from the whims or wrath of these ill equipped leaders and military men, some attempted to rebel. Journalists began to realize that they might have helped this man get into office and they tried to remedy the situation with editorials. They were quickly silenced, arrested and/or eliminated. No opposition was tolerated. An underground effort formed to help victims of the brutality escape from the country, but the borders were well guarded. Some got to Canada, which was predictive of a time decades later when resisters of the Viet Nam War crossed the border.
Soon, there was unrest at the highest levels of government. After a little over two years, Windrip was betrayed and overthrown by his friend and confidante, Secretary of State Lee Sarason. A month later, Sarason was murdered by the new Secretary of State, Dewey Haik who took over and consolidated power even further and was even more ruthless.
What kind of a country would the United States become after all was said and done? Which group would emerge victorious? Who were the culprits causing so much dissidence in the country and suspicion of the government? Was it the rich, the corporations or the ignorant who were hungry for power and equality even though they actually were not prepared to handle the authority given without abusing it? Sinclair Lewis never really provides an answer. The book condemns Fascism and Communism but really does not offer a better alternative when it ends, leaving the resolution of the rebellion unfinished.
The book was prescient since WWII and its atrocities were not in full swing when it was published. Still, there must have been more of an awareness of Hitler’s vicious policies than I had believed, because many forms of cruelty and maliciousness used by Hitler were arbitrarily practiced in the concentration camps of Lewis’ imagination.
Most of the current reviewers are saying this book describes a political climate like our own today, and they proclaim it laid the groundwork for the election of Donald Trump, a President they do not support. It is a well documented fact that the media is biased against him because of his unsophisticated and often immature retorts to their criticisms; also the publishing industry, as well, falls into that category of progressives who do not approve of his election. It is also a fact that these very same people supported one of his opponents, overwhelmingly. This opposition seems to be largely responsible for creating the same atmosphere today, that Lewis wrote about in 1935. They call for resistance to the President for the same behavior they are even more guilty of and are therefore hypocrites, hiding behind an emotional appeal to people who wish to remain ignorant, in the same way as Lewis’s characters did, at first.
That said, anyone who followed our recent election would realize that Bernie Sanders, the Socialist Senator who represented Vermont, was more closely related to Berzelius Windrip than Donald Trump. Sanders offered free education to all and wished to impose a mandatory salary for everyone, as well. However, Sanders was against the power of big corporations, so in that way he veered from Windrip who used them to further his agenda. Sanders wanted to represent those who felt they were getting short changed. Trump wanted to represent those who were being ignored.
The continued practice of presenting only negative views, without addressing anything positive about the President’s achievements, may very well set the stage for something like “It Can’t Happen Here” to actually “Happen Here!”, especially if people remain complacent or simply behave like lemmings, taking as doctrine the false statements made, simply because they fit their narrative.
The book was excellent, but the reviews seem contrived in order to promote the particular political point of view of the reviewer, namely the progressive or socialist one of the extreme left. Just like in the book, our own cast of characters is blown this way and that by the different politicians and their speeches. Our most powerful and famous personages use their bully pulpit to make wild accusations, often without any basis in reality, just because they can’t deal with, or simply refuse, t,o accept the facts.
Could someone, like Windrip slowly commandeer power by eliminating individual choice, speech and freedom? The media today has taken to pointing fingers at Trump to make him appear frightening. If they continue to sow dissent and discontent, perhaps there could be someone like that, but it isn’t Trump. His agenda is in no way like that of Windrip’s. Still, it is horrifying to contemplate how easily and quickly a country could be corrupted by a leader who harbored hateful, despotic plans and who had the support of a ready military organization behind him/her.
Occasionally, it felt like there was a bit too much dialogue in the audio version, so I believe that, the book should be read in print in order to get the most out of it. ( )
  thewanderingjew | Feb 27, 2018 |
Well...this is familiar. It was eerie how easily the dictatorship fell into place and I could see this (reasonably easily) happen today.
As to the story itself, the writing wasn't as dense and disjointed as Lewis's more famous work - The Jungle. The characters were well developed and multi-faceted. The prose was poetic in places.
A good read. ( )
  benuathanasia | Jan 10, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 50 (next | show all)
“It Can’t Happen Here” is a work of dystopian fantasy, one man’s effort in the 1930s to imagine what it might look like if fascism came to America. At the time, the obvious specter was Adolf Hitler, whose rise to power in Germany provoked fears that men like the Louisiana senator Huey Long or the radio priest Charles Coughlin might accomplish a similar feat in the United States. Today, Lewis’s novel is making a comeback as an analogy for the Age of Trump.
 

» Add other authors (18 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Sinclair Lewisprimary authorall editionscalculated
Kennedy, Jay RichardIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Meisel, PerryIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Meyer, MichaelIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Scharnhorst, GaryAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schorer, MarkIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The handsome dining room of the Hotel Wessex, with its gilded plaster shields and the mural depicting the Green Mountains, had been reserved for the Ladies' Night Dinner of the Fort Beulah Rotary Club.
Quotations
I am convinced that everything that is worth while in the world has been accomplished by the free, inquiring, critical spirit, and that the preservation of this spirit is more important than any social system whatsoever.
Summarized, the letter explained that he was all against the banks but all for the bankers—except the Jewish bankers, who were to be driven out of finance entirely; that he had thoroughly tested (but unspecified) plans to make all wages very high and the prices of everything produced by these same highly paid workers very low; that he was 100 per cent for Labor, but 100 per cent against all strikes; and that he was in favor of the United States so arming itself, so preparing to produce its own coffee, sugar, perfumes, tweeds, and nickel instead of importing them, that it could defy the World . . . and maybe, if that World was so impertinent as to defy America in turn, Buzz hinted, he might have to take it over and run it properly. (Chapter 7)
And Loveland, teacher of Greek, Latin, and Sanskrit (two lone students), had never till now meddled in any politics of more recent date than A.D. 180. (p. 25)
"...we've got to change our system a lot, maybe even change the whole Constitution...The executive has got to have a freer hand and be able to move quick in an emergency, and not be tied down by a lot of dumb shyster-lawyer congressmen taking months to shoot off their mouths in debate." (p. 30, Senator Windrip)
He used to surprise persons who were about to shake hands with him by suddenly bending their fingers back till they almost broke. (p. 29)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 045121658X, Paperback)

The only one of Sinclair Lewis's later novels to match the power of Main Street, Babbitt, and Arrowsmith, It Can't Happen Here is a cautionary tale about the fragility of democracy, an alarming, eerily timeless look at how fascism could take hold in America. Written during the Great Depression when America was largely oblivious to Hitler's aggression, it juxtaposes sharp political satire with the chillingly realistic rise of a President who becomes a dictator to save the nation from welfare cheats, rampant promiscuity, crime, and a liberal press. Now finally back in print, It Can't Happen Here remains uniquely important, a shockingly prescient novel that's as fresh and contemporary as today's news.
"Written at white heat." —Chicago Tribune
"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

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:51 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

A New England newspaper editor fights to destroy the fascist dictatorship established by President Berzelius Windrip in this classic work by the author of Babbit, Arrowsmith, and Main Street that prophesizes the coming of totalitarianism in the United States.… (more)

» see all 10 descriptions

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