Ensiform's Reviews > It Can't Happen Here

It Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis
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Mar 09, 13

bookshelves: fiction
Read in September, 2008

In 1936, populist Buzz Winthrip becomes president on a platform of taking over the banks and giving money to the working man, and soon has set himself up as fascist dictator, with political prisoners, death squads, anti-Semitism, bread lines, and all. The hero, Doremus Jessup, is an old progressive Vermont newspaper editor who comes to realize, too late, that no one is safe any more.

It’s equal parts chilling prescience and satire of the contemporary political scene (most of which, I fear, went over my head). There are one or two passages that don’t mesh well, such as a long one in which Jessup quizzes his daughter on her love life – even as people are being herded into camps! – but those aside, the book is pretty tight and brutal. Reading it, I wondered how probable such a scenario was in the ‘30s – certainly no one could come to power oppressing Jews or championing the poor today – but current events have made it clear that it can happen here, albeit under a subtler guise. Certainly Lewis has the flag-waving and the empty affirmation of values right.
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