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Elmer Gantry
Sinclair Lewis
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Elmer Gantry

3.98  ·  Rating Details ·  3,697 Ratings  ·  330 Reviews
Universally recognized as a landmark in American literature, Elmer Gantry scandalized readers when it was first published, causing Sinclair Lewis to be "invited" to a jail cell in New Hampshire and to his own lynching in Virginia. His portrait of a golden-tongued evangelist who rises to power within his church--a saver of souls who lives a life of duplicity, sensuality, an ...more
432 pages
Published June 1970 by Howard Baker (first published 1927)
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Jun 25, 2014 Lisa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nobels
I am tempted to start preaching!

My dear fellow Goodreaders! We have come together to celebrate this book, the revelation of eternal truth, showing the sins of man in his most hideous shape! Read! Recant! Redeem yourselves! Listen to the words of universal wisdom, and confess! Have you ever committed the sin of vanity? Is hypocrisy foreign to you? Do you feel secret joy when you succeed in manipulating people to act in your favour?

I can't do it. I find myself recoiling in disgust even as I try co
Jason Koivu
Jun 23, 2013 Jason Koivu rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Brothers and sisters! I say, brothers and sisters lend me your ear! I have read the words of Mr. Sinclair Lewis as set down in the good book Elmer Gantry in which this author of the early 20th century condemns organized religion, most notably the Baptist Church. His main character, a one Mr. Elmer Gantry, as the title suggests, is an most insincere and hypocritical preacher of the faith. Insincere and hypocritical! Yes sah, that is the crux, the very essence of the text. A text of greater length ...more
J Cravens
Dec 05, 2008 J Cravens rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: to anyone who loves great literature
Shelves: fiction
Just before the 4th of July, I finished Elmer Gantry. It turned out to be one of the greatest novels I have ever read. Elmer Gantry, published in 1927, was so much more complex, so much more biting and chilling in its description of the worst parts of the American psyche, so much more timeless, than I ever imagined it would be. I expected a comic-book story and dated prose -- I got, instead, vivid characters and lines of text I found myself re-reading per their beautiful structure and perfect de ...more
Richard Derus
Nov 20, 2011 Richard Derus rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
BkC 56

Rating: 4.25* of five

The Publisher Says: Today universally recognized as a landmark in American literature, Elmer Gantry scandalized readers when it was first published, causing Sinclair Lewis to be "invited" to a jail cell in New Hampshire and to his own lynching in Virginia. His portrait of a golden-tongued evangelist who rises to power within his church - a saver of souls who lives a life of hypocrisy, sensuality, and ruthless self-indulgence - is also the record of a period, a reign of
Feb 19, 2016 Perry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bigoted Bully in the Business of Beliefs

Famous Gassy Preacher Sounds Call for Contributions

A timeless, albeit rather tame, tale of a bigoted bully (who seems close to insanity at times) abuses his power in the name of religion, serially succumbing to temptations of the flesh and the pitfalls of arrogant pride. I frankly expected a more powerful condemnation, but then recalled this novel is set in the early 1900s.

It's shameful that the charlatans have only worsened in this country. And yet, it
On the surface, this is a story of a bad guy, made all the more evil by his using the name of God to hoodwink people and lift himself up for public admiration. He is the living embodiment of a wolf in sheep's clothing. Unfortunately, this is not a book that can be read on the surface and be done with. Elmer Gantry isn't a cut-and-dried villain. On the contrary, it is his very humanness that makes his story equal parts repulsive and irresistible. We see in Gantry's hypocrisy our own inclination t ...more
Feb 26, 2008 Ken rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sinclair Lewis' writing always sticks with me. Perhaps it is because he so wonderfully savaged American culture, laying out all its ills, prejudices, and hypocrisies as a feast for the reader. The characters he presented to us--Elmer Gantry, George Babbitt, Samuel Dodsworth, and Will Kennicott-- were bright smiling neighbors that revealed the grotesque in American values.

Of these Elmer Gantry, the title character of Lewis' 11th novel, still rings the most true, if for no other reason than that t
I had expected that I would know the basics from having seen the movie but the book was completely different! Excellent satire about evangelical Christians, small town America & hypocrisy and the Anthony Heald narration was very good.

Elmer Gantry is a hypocrite but he doesn't even seem to realize it (or only dimly)! So many aspects of Elmer reminded me of Donald Trump that at times it was hard to continue (and made me hate the ending (view spoiler)
Elmer Gantry is a womanizing troublemaker who manages to become a successful preacher despite his frequent questionable conduct, and often destroying the lives of those around him along the way.
This is really a fantastic book and one that, although it was written 80 years ago, is still quite fresh and thought-provoking. It explores religion and the lives of those who deliver it to us in a way few authors would dare.
Demetrius Rogers
May 30, 2015 Demetrius Rogers rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, audiobooks
This was amazing. I will definitely need to explore other books by Sinclair Lewis. Wow. This man could WRITE! I don't know much about Lewis, but he must have had some extensive exposure to the Christianity of his day. I found this very educational regarding the religious landscape of America during the turn of the century. Baptists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Methodists, Pentecostals, Catholics, Mormons, New Thoughters are represented here with all their foibles and idiosyncrasies. A fascinat ...more
J.G. Keely
Nov 28, 2007 J.G. Keely rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to J.G. Keely by: Ama's father
This send up of religious institutions was so devestating that many religious leaders called for Lewis to be stoned to death for writing it. His biting, insightful, and humorous look at religious hypocrisy is as pertinant today as it was when it was first written.

The pure strength of Lewis's prose is refreshing after reading more recent authors. His control and understanding of syntax, grammar, and words maintains a strength and clarity of voice throughout the work. However, he does not sacrific
Jan 22, 2017 Mary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, usa
This classic is both opportune and evocative of an era. Helpful as I try to calm my fear of our current Gantry/Gekko president. Shyster sociopaths have been around forever and they are often very successful. Maybe we’ll survive this yooge success. The most powerful man on our planet. Wow. Shoulda stuck with real estate where he belongs.

Lewis is a great observer and super witty. I would’ve loved to have him over for dinner. I cherish this book.

Moving on to “It Can’t Happen Here.” Well….
Mike (the Paladin)
I've read that this novel caused quite a furor when it was released, even being denounced by Billy Sunday. Well, I wouldn't know, I wasn't there, but it wouldn't surprise me as I remember when some Christians got very "excited" about the movie "The Last Temptation of Christ". All they accomplished in my opinion was drawing more attention to the movie than it would otherwise have garnered.

As for Elmer Gantry, I am a Christian and this book does arguably, take a pretty dim view of some or possibly
Jan 21, 2014 Mark rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary
I have never despised a literary character as much as Elmer Gantry, and that is exactly what Sinclair Lewis wanted.

Elmer Gantry will rise up and give you that old time religion, even if he doesn't have it himself.

Elmer Gantry will be at the head of the pack to find and condemn vice, and when he's not with the pack he'll still be out finding vice.

Elmer Gantry will be a Baptist, an evangelical, a New Thoughter, a Methodist, and is wondering about those Episcopalians. Because he's heard their congr
Mikey B.
Dec 19, 2012 Mikey B. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
A truly delightful novel. Lewis takes obvious pleasure from poking fun at religion – and he takes on the various church denominations and destroys them with attacks from multiple positions. He exposes hypocrisy through Elmer Gantry – who supposedly is a protector of morality while enhancing his career by vapid publicity, name-calling and disdaining the women who fall in love with him. He also ignores his family while pursuing his goals.

This book exposes the lust for power behind the evangelical
This book, I think, was written to reflect the frustration a person might feel when listening to a sermon of epic proportion or perhaps a person proselytizing: weary.

Lewis is condemning not only ministers (the people that are the vessels of God), but religion itself. He paints Gantry as a man that is uncertain of his belief in God, but confident of his ability as a charismatic speaker and so Gantry becomes an ordained Baptist minister. When that religion doesn't work out for him, he finds a hom
The character Elmer Gantry is righteous, strident, repetitive, hypocritical and a lot of other things none of which are complementary, and for me, that was the problem with the book. The flat and one dimensional characters that inhibit Sinclair Lewis novels and especially the constant hammering of his message.

I read Babbitt a couple of weeks ago and I enjoyed it. My mistake was returning to Lewis too soon. Rather than a new novel this felt like the sequel. Like watching Woody Allen films, enter
Vicki Jacobs
Aug 01, 2008 Vicki Jacobs rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One impression I got from this book is how similar the evangelist Gantry and his coherts are to the Taliban. The evangelists in Lewis' book would do exactly what the Taliban has done or are currently doing in the middle east, imposing their interpretation of god's rules upon everyone, believer or not. They both endorse morality police and have ambitions to rule the world as they see fit.
If you've ever laughed at (or been disgusted by) the antics of televangelist charlatans like Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart, Sinclair Lewis had their number 80 years ago. The fictional Elmer Gantry rises to prominence before the era of radio and TV evangalism, but his greed, self-serving political ambitions, and sexual indiscretions are just like those of his real-life counterparts.

I actually listened to part of this audiobook while mistakenly thinking the author was Upton Sinclair. Duoh! How emb
Jan 06, 2010 Beej rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I would have given this book a four star rating if I didn't abhor Elmer Gantry as much as I do. He is the master manipulator, the king of scum, the glib tongued devil who sees the world only as it can serve him.

A little synopsis of the story: Elmer Gantry is a handsome rogue, a sports hero, son of a religious woman whose dreams for him consist totally of his becoming a man of the cloth. He delights in whiskey and women even as he attends theology classes. Unfortunately for everyone, especially
Marcus Johnson
May 11, 2013 Marcus Johnson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Less than ten pages into this novel, I was hooked. I honestly felt as though Sinclair Lewis was capable of time travel, transported himself forward in time so he could sit next to me during worship services at multiple churches, then transported himself back to the 1920s so he could write about it. Seriously, it feels as though little has changed in the world of American Evangelicalism. This movement still has its rising celebrities with more ambition than humility, and more demonstrated passion ...more
Paul Gaya Ochieng Simeon Juma
Everytime I go to Church, I will always remember Elmer Gantry and try to investigate the legitimacy and beliefs of my spiritual leaders. It is very sad when the person you trust to guide you through life is a hypocrite who is there to take advantage of your ignorance. At times, as seen in the book, we go to church in order to appear and win the approval of a certain group of people. The rich and learned don't believe and mostly they find themselves asking and questioning the bible and the releva ...more
Hank Pharis
Aug 20, 2014 Hank Pharis rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
It's been a long time since I saw the movie but the character always intrigued me. Burt Lancaster won the Academy Award for best actor and his performance was one of the best ever. Thus I wanted to hear the book. The movie only covers about the middle third of the story. There is a lot more in the novel. But as I remember it in the movie Elmer Gantry was kind of a mysterious character that was hard to figure out. He moved back
and forth between seeming to be sincere and being blatantly hypocriti
Paul Kelly
Wow! This book paints an ugly face on a preacher who is trying to do the job without any real commitment to Christ or any real calling. It is set in the early part of the 20th Century and offers an interesting indictment on pioneering religion. I suppose Lewis intends to paint preachers with a rather black brush because he offers us no characters that are truly remarkable men of God. While the book could serve to anger those of us who are in ministry, perhaps it is a important look at how "human ...more
Mar 10, 2009 Ceci rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The prose could be better and some chapters are a little long, but on the whole this book makes an interesting read. What is amazing to me is that this satire on evangelic fervor remains so timely. Elmer Gantry provides insight to the American culture that remains fresh even to this day. The 1920s are long gone and yet this book points out that some things have not changed, including the hypocrisy of the charismatic pulpit. Although a few people may find the writing to be a bit "old timey," the ...more
Scott Bilodeau
Dec 21, 2016 Scott Bilodeau rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
On the heels of this last presidential election, trying to understand how someone as repulsive, dishonest, hypocritical, and dangerously authoritarian as Donald Trump could win not only the primaries but the general election, I sought out something in particular and found exactly what I was looking for in Elmer Gantry. The book is about a blow-hard evangelist who disingenuously preaches about morals and sin while leading a life that is nothing like what he preaches. His goal is not the enrichmen ...more
Sep 01, 2013 Ben rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars. Let me preface this review by stating that I really wanted to love this work. It has sat on my to-read shelf a little too long, but when I finally decided to read it I did not find anything particularly fantastic about the work. While I have other Sinclair Lewis books on my to-read shelf (among them Babbitt, Arrowsmith and Main Street, I'm not sure that my first encounter with Lewis' writing style makes me particularly eager to read any of those other classics. Much like when I read H ...more
Aug 10, 2014 Chad rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
"His possessions were not very consistent. He had a beautiful new morning coat, three excellent lounge suits, patent leather shoes, a noble derby, a flourishing top hat, but he had only two suits of underclothes, both ragged. His socks were of black silk, out at the toes. For breast-pocket display, he had silk handkerchiefs; but for use, only cotton rags torn at the hem. He owned perfume, hair-oil, talcum powder; his cuff links were of solid gold; but for dressing-gown he used his overcoat; his ...more
Apr 04, 2016 Jason rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
It's certainly the best satire of religious fundamentalism in the US I've read. It's tough to believe that the book is roughly 90 years old as it so clearly anticipates the grotesque televangelists of the 1980s as well as the neocon theocrats of today. In this way, it never seems dated, and its criticism of religious hypocrisy is every bit as relevant in 2016 as it was in the mid-20s. Corrupt blowhard minister Elmer Gantry might as well be a Tea Party congressman from the Deep South. Other figur ...more
Sep 12, 2016 Emily rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A biting satire of the Christian right that seems just as relevant today as it was in the 1920s when it was written. The humor of the book is punctuated by moments of true villainy by the title character Elmer Gantry, a tactic that forces you to take Gantry seriously as a threat despite his buffoonery and weakness. My biggest critique is that the narrative dragged in many places and made it sometimes difficult to get through. The last 40 pages I moved through very quickly though.
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Awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1930 "for his vigorous and graphic art of description and his ability to create, with wit and humor, new types of characters." His works are known for their insightful and critical views of American capitalism and materialism between the wars. He is also respected for his strong characterizations of modern working women. H.L. Mencken wrote of him, "[If] the ...more
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“The Maker of the universe with stars a hundred thousand light-years apart was interested, furious, and very personal about it if a small boy played baseball on Sunday afternoon.” 44 likes
“He had, in fact, got everything from the church and Sunday School, except, perhaps, any longing whatever for decency and kindness and reason” 5 likes
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