Doremus Jessup, a newspaper editor, is dismayed to find how many people he knows support presidential candidate Berzelius Windrip. The suspiciously fascist Windrip is offering to save the nation from welfare cheats, sex, crime, and a liberal press. But after Windrip wins the election, dissent soon becomes dangerous for Jessup. Windrip 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.
©1954 Michael Lewis; (P)2008 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
"Not only [Lewis'] most important book but one of the most important books ever produced in this country." (The New Yorker)
This would be a difficult book to read simply as an entertaining story. As with George Orwell's _Nineteen eighty-four_, the subject matter is simply too grim, unavoidably causing the reader (or listener, as the case may be) to look for parallels in his own time. And parallels there are. In so many ways, little has changed in the seventy-some-odd years since this book's publication. The creep of totalitarianism has lost none of its fright. All those years also give the modern reader an insight into the worldview and attitude of many Americans from decades ago. In this way, the book can serve as a kind of history lesson. I recommend it.
This book is something of a sleeper, but more people really should know about it. There's a bit of a slow start, but it turns in to a fantastic book with eerie prescience of Nazi Germany during that war, and in some disturbing ways even our own country in the last 10 years. But the book manages to be funny and light-hearted at times, despite its somber subject, so it isn't a heavy read at all.
I found this book to be a fascinating work of hypothetical historical fiction. It begins slowly, in keeping with the pre-crisis gentility of its bookish, patrician protagonist, but picks up once presidential candidate Buzz Windrip takes over, becoming a vivid imagining of what American fascism might look like if it resembled that of Europe. Lewis wrote the book quickly and presciently in 1935.
Although there are numerous similiarities between the Corpo government and the Bush administration, Lewis avoids making this a simple trashing of Republicans, showing a Democratic candidate cynically using the leftist rhetoric of class liberation and social justice, only to then betray those ideals and swing hard right, as did Mussolini in Italy. The novel is especially poignant when it juxtaposes the mundane normalcy of smalltown life with the brutal violence of the Corpo regime. One character reflects that "The worst of it was that it wasn't so very bad," and this underscores Lewis's point that Americans are willing to tolerate things such as torture, racial discrimination, and imperial presidential power, so long as our private lives are insulated from them. Lewis champions "the free, inquiring, critical spirit" of classical liberalism as the solution to fascism and communism, which for him are equally totalitarian, but seems to contradict that solution in the book's final revolutionary chapters.
The narration is good, with variety in the character voices and unaffected delivery. Unfortunately, it stops on the penultimate page, omitting the final four paragraphs of the book.
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.
Totalitarianism saw it's first most horrible rise to power in the years between the two world wars. Fascism and Communism both led to the same place but not everyone could see that. Ayn Rand saw that clearly enough but her work never appealed to the mainstream. Here we have a mainstream author attempting to tackle that theme. As it turned out, the creeping big government of his own time was more subtle than Lewis's scenario, but that only means it was more insidious. Here we are in 2012 and government has its hooks into more aspects of our private lives than Lewis ever dreamed of. The Left has promised the masses all the free handouts Lewis envisaged, and the Right has given us Homeland Security, but neither side has lifted a finger to give us back any of the rights the other side has taken away. Both sides are trending inevitably toward totalitarianism. Hopefully, this book will open a few eyes. Unfortunately, I think the tendency is to see it as a historical oddity--an alarmist view of foreign doctrines taking hold in America. But Lewis makes a great point which is that the values we hold most precious are maintained not by Government or the Military or any other big public institution, but by we the people insisting on our Constitutional rights. Lewis was genuinely prescient in showing what happens when too many of us are complacent about allowing big government to grow unchecked. That makes this book still worth reading today.
Sinclair Lewis must have dashed off It Cant Happen Here in the heat of the moment. The characters are two-dimensional, especially, the villains. The story is precipitate and, yet, over-long. The abrupt turn around of events at the end is silly and there is no organic reason for most of the dire events-suddenly, folks turn sadist, suddenly, folks turn hero. Lewis is best when he is drawing characters motivated by petty desires like Babbit and Elmer Gantry. The narrator is good and does much to make this book worth listening to.
I couldn't get into this book at all and never finished it. It goes on and on and on describing the characters and just gets very boring.
Report Inappropriate Content
If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.