It Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I can't remember who it was that initially recommended this book to me. I can't even recall if I even knew who Sinclair Lewis was prior to picking up this novel. One thing is for certain…
In today's political climate this book is downright terrifying. The entire idea that America should find itself in the grasp of a would-be dictator seemed so far-fetched. There are entire passages in which the author appears to be describing Trump directly. I know, I know. You just read that sentence and decided that I'm nuts. Here's an excerpt describing Windrip:
"Doremus Jessup, so inconspicuous an observer, watching Senator Windrip from so humble a Boetia, could not explain his power of bewitching large audiences. The Senator was vulgar, almost illiterate, a public liar easily detected, and in his 'ideas' almost idiotic, while his celebrated piety was that of a traveling salesman for church furniture, and his yet more celebrated humor the sly cynicism of a country store.
Certainly there was nothing exhilarating in the actual words of his speeches nor anything convincing in his philosophy…
…had advocated nothing more revolutionary than better beef stew in the county poor-farms, and plenty of graft for loyal machine politicians, with jobs for their brothers-in-law, nephews, law partners and creditors.
Doremus had never heard Windrip during one of his orgasms of oratory, but he had been told by political reporters that under the spell you thought Windrip was Plato, but that on the way home you could not remember anything he had said."
The novel follows the rise of the President/Dictator Buzz Windrip and the journalist Doremus Jessup. The moment Windrip is elected he arrests pretty much everyone who ever opposed him and puts them in jail. As time goes on anyone who needs work ends up in labor camps, anyone who opposes him ends up in a concentration camp.
The author lays out, in vivid detail exactly how this could happen in America. He essentially posits that one our democracy is gone, it's not coming back and we become yet another nation living through dictator after dictator. Bouncing from one tumultuous existence to another. It is a bleak and terrifying portrayal of one potential future.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys classic literature as well as dystopian literature. It's an interesting take on both.
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