Elmer Gantry is well composed satire, a character study that continually toys with morality and hypocrisy. Lewis' wit and delicate descriptions make this story a wonderful tale of one mans climb to the top of the evangelical world in the early 1900s. This book is made immeasurably more enjoyable by the suburb narration of Anthony Heald who remains my favorite narrator of audible books. The narration of Heald is so subtle and smooth I always feel as if he is telling me his own story. Sometimes narration can make a good book bad, in this case the narration makes a good book great. While the story is not for everyone if you like Sinclair Lewis then this is a must have.
I would not recommend reading "Elmer Gantry", unless you desire bad feelings for the church (a church from about 100 years ago!).
Elmer Gantry is the original "snake-oil" salesman, and the Anti-Hero of this story.
The book chronicles his upbringing as a bully, his disgraces throughout seminary, and his later 'smooth' rise to the pinnacles of evangelical preaching. Written in 1926, Elmer Gantry echoes many sentiments we now associate with that time period: apple pie and ice cream socials, fear of “Communist Sympathizers”, racism, and (of course) loud and sanctimonious “Revival Preachers”.
Sinclair hammers the reader over the head with the notion that all pastors (save but one or two cardboard cut-out characters) are immoral, liars, thieves, athiests, or all of the above. He brings up important points about the hypocrisy of "Professional Good Men", but I wondered often what he was actually trying to say. (?)
The morals of the story seemed to be: All pastors are hypocrites; Religion is laughable: All religions have good points if not taken seriously; The congregation of a church is mostly made up of dumb sheep; and etc...
Verdict: skip it.
My interests run to psychology, popular science, history, world literature, and occasionally something fun like Jasper Fforde. It seems like the only free time I have for reading these days is when I'm in the car so I am extremely grateful for audio books. I started off reading just the contemporary stuff that I was determined not to clutter up my already stuffed bookcases with. And now audio is probably 90% of my "reading" matter.
Reading a book like this makes you appreciate how little the world has changed in the last 100 years. And if people bought into the same weird fads 100 years ago, why not 200? Or 1000? Or all the way back to the beginning of civilization?
I thought I knew Elmer Gantry by reputation but I was mistaken. Whether Elmer does or doesn't believe in religion, he works really hard at it. And therein lies a deep and probing search into any of the professions like preaching, politics, activism, where success is measured by how much support and attention you can get. There is a kind of moral hazard created by that phenomenon.
Sinclair Lewis does a brilliant job of showing how Gantry gradually brainwashes himself, and how his hypocrisy arises, not from some deliberate choice on his own part, but from a lack of self-reflection and an absence of self-awareness. Gantry is terrifying, not because he is a hypocrit, but because he ultimately truly believes he is doing the right thing.
Lewis also paints a depressing picture of what happens to people in the ministry who are truly sincere and honest about their faith. It seems they will always lose out to people like Gantry who profess to harbor no doubts. Those who wrestle with their doubts--and even consider that struggle to be essential to their own faith--will never have the popular appeal of a charismatic personality like Gantry. What that says about the general public I leave to your imagination.
Things never change-scum rises to the top; Elmer Gantry clumps and hollers his hypocritical way to success. Sinclair Lewis' novel is as lively and meaningful as when it was first published. What a treat and the reader is terrific!
The unflinching, story combined with the exquisite reading makes for an unforgettable listening experience. Love, hate, admire or pity Elmer Gantry, you will not forget this complex paradox of a man. The eloquence of his speeches, his brashness, his inner turmoil, the people swept up and away by him, leaves the listener breathless! And, there is much to think about long after the final chapter.
I really don't know.
Not unless it was REALLY different.
Honestly can't critique his performance too much, because the book was just not enjoyable. I don't know what if anything, he could have done to make it better.
I was captivated by this audiobook within the first 2 minutes - the well written character and the fabulous narration was immediately evident. It was like a revelation, highlighting what is so right about audiobooks and how so many others, while good, pale in comparison. Sadly, though, Sinclair Lewis let the tale go on too long, meandering around and going nowhere. I wish it was about 1/3 shorter......Elmer Gantry doesn't change a whit throughout the book, so a shorter novel really wouldn't have been amiss, in my opinion. This is my first Sinclair Lewis novel, so I don't know if his other works suffer from the same repetitiveness. Perhaps I shouldn't be so bold as to suggest edits to the work of a Nobel Prize winner.
The character of Elmer Gantry is great and well written.......A student of law who decides instead to take up the gospel - primarily to feed his ego with praise and attention and not because of any religious feelings - Elmer doesn't let his growth among the evangelicals, Baptists, and (later) Methodists keep him from indulging privately in many of the vices he rallied against publicly. A tale of hypocrisy and an indictment of religion, it only suffers by repetition as phase after phase of Elmer's life go forward with the illusions and lies he used successfully in his past.
The wonderful narration makes this book more than worth listening too - it's still a great novel well read.
The fictional Elmer Gantry rises to prominence before the era of radio and TV evangelism, but his greed, selfishness, and sexual indiscretions are just like those of some real-life preachers we all know.
Elmer Gantry follows the protagonist from his beginnings as an irreverent student at a religious university who's browbeaten into being "saved" by another traveling preacher who turns out to be a cynical fraud himself. But Elmer is set out on his path, and goes to seminary to become a Baptist preacher. After getting caught with one of his flock, he's kicked out by the Baptists. He becomes assistant (and lover) to a crazy woman evangelist named Sharon Falconer, who on the one hand is as phony as he is, and on the other seems to really believe every bit of nonsense she spouts. Her character was quite interesting; today we'd probably call her bipolar, and she seems to be the one woman Elmer truly loves, as he remembers her for the rest of his life, even when he moves on to bigger and better venues after losing her.
This was a great story for its study of hypocrisy and very cynical and realistic examination of religion in America. (Sinclair did his homework, sitting in on a lot of church services to write this.) It's not exactly an indictment of Christianity and shouldn't be taken that way -- the novel doesn't take a stand on the rightness or wrongness of any particular religious beliefs, only on the all-too-realistic behavior of the clergy and parishioners. Sinclair writes a straightforward story with lots of minor characters, each of them very human and flawed and interesting. By the end of the book, you're really, really hoping that Elmer Gantry will finally get his comeuppance, but despite many close calls and setbacks over the course of his career, Gantry is like an eel who always seems to wriggle his way out of the worst of his difficulties.
Terrific reader - one of the best read books I've listened to in the past few years. Although the book is very good, I prefer Main Street.