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It Can't Happen Here

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  14,237 ratings  ·  2,412 reviews
The only one of Sinclair Lewis's later novels to match the power of Main Street, Babbitt, and Arrowsmith, It Can't Happen Here is a cautionary tale about the fragility of democracy, an alarming, eerily timeless look at how fascism could take hold in America. Written during the Great Depression when America was largely oblivious to Hitler's aggression, it juxtaposes sharp p ...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published October 4th 2005 by NAL Trade (first published October 1935)
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Cheryl Chiarello I also got this book based on its "topicality" during the fall 2016 election season, and found the first 10-15% pretty mundane and like I was reading …moreI also got this book based on its "topicality" during the fall 2016 election season, and found the first 10-15% pretty mundane and like I was reading "Life With Father" but I persevered and was so glad I did! It turned into much more and at the ending sentence I bawled my eyes out not bec. of any particular event in the book but bec. of the spirit of the protagonist and those like him, which I think we Americans will need to closely keep in mind these next 4 years, and be EVER vigilant.
Hope you kept reading, Kevin.
Charlene Mathe There are several Michael Meyer authors that come up on my browser. None linked to the publisher. I think it could be this literature professor:
There are several Michael Meyer authors that come up on my browser. None linked to the publisher. I think it could be this literature professor:
"Michael Meyer (Ph.D., University of Connecticut) has taught writing and literature courses for more than 30 years — since 1981 at the University of Connecticut and before that at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and the College of William and Mary. His scholarly articles have appeared in distinguished journals such as American Literature, Studies in the American Renaissance, and Virginia Quarterly Review. An internationally recognized authority on Henry David Thoreau, Meyer is a former president of the Thoreau Society and coauthor (with Walter Harding) of The New Thoreau Handbook, a standard reference source. His other books for Bedford/St. Martin's include Poetry: An Introduction (2010), The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature (2009); and Thinking and Writing about Literature (2001)."
One reason I think so is that the 2014 Penguin edition adds an Afterward by Gary Scharnhorst, another literature professor.(less)

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Michael Finocchiaro
A friend of mine that was recently in London told me that all the bookshops there had Roth's The Plot Against America and It Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis. Alarmist? Perhaps, but as I already said in my review of The Plot Against America, maybe not.

In It Can't Happen Here, rather than Lindbergh tromping FDR as in The Plot Against America, we have a populist Windrip who takes the Democratic nomination in 1936 by storm on a platform promising $5000 to each American citizen and naturally crus
Oct 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone who cares about what happens to our country and our planet
Recommended to Lilo by: my dear GR friend Ted

October 8, 2015:

I am just on page 84 of this book but I cannot wait to write a review. So I will write a preliminary review.

Sinclair Lewis wrote this meanwhile classic satire in 1936. And I am afraid that fictious history might become true, 80 years after this book has been written.

The satiric novel tells about an American presidential candidate who is very belligerent and bombastic. Irony of all irony: Even though he is clearly a fascist, he hitches a ride from the Democratic Party to come to p
Dec 27, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It Can’t Happen Here is Sinclair Lewis’ political satire and propagandized account of the rise of an American fascist.

Perhaps most compelling is the fact that Lewis wrote the book only a couple of years after Hitler’s rise to power (and 13 years before Orwell’s 1984). Lewis was an astute and keen observer of political power and was a canary in the coal mine for a world that would soon know much grief.

Considering that Lewis published this in 1935, it is eerily uncanny the way his fictitious pre
Sep 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Amy Beth, Mark, Katie, Tristan
Shelves: fiction
I have always thought that if fascism ever came to America it would come clothed in red, white, and blue, with patriotic songs, and quotations from founding fathers. It would be nationalistic. It would extol military endeavors and elevate soldiers to the level of heroes. It would handle the race question in subtle yet effective ways. It would join forces with conservative Christian churches and begin to make life hard for anyone else. It would give free reign to the rich, the powerful, and the p ...more
David Schaafsma
“The conspicuous fault of the Jeffersonian Party, like the personal fault of Senator Trowbridge, was that it represented integrity and reason, in a year when the electorate hungered for frisky emotions, for the peppery sensations associated, usually, not with monetary systems and taxation rates but with baptism by immersion in the creek, straight whisky, angelic orchestras heard soaring down from the full moon, fear of death when an automobile teeters above a canyon, thirst in a desert and quenc ...more
Feb 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis is a 2014 Signet publication.

I’ll give you three guesses as to why this book showed up on my TBR list, and two don’t count.

Originally published way back in 1935, Sinclair Lewis’s novel seemed to transcend time and is a constant reminder what can happen if we are too complacent or too timid to make our voice heard.

There is no need to go over the context of this timeless classic, as it has been analyzed many times over by people far more prolific than myse
Feb 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Written in 1935 this novel has had a sudden resurgence due to world events which somehow seem eerily similar. The story tells of the rise of the next President of the United Stated – Berzelius ‘Buzz’ Windrip, mostly through the eyes of small town journalist, Doremus Jessup (there are some very unusual names in this novel!), his family and local community.

Obviously, this novel was written during the time of rising fascism in Europe and the author has cleverly taken those events and the complacen
Jan 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This extraordinary novel from 1935 predicts with uncanny accuracy the American political situation of 2016, and has authentic and frightening warnings. Sinclair Lewis satirizes with biting humor the potential for America to fall to populist demagogues with nothing to say but what people want to hear, and of the terrible consequences of the people's naïvete. A must read.

The first thing you might want to be clear about when you pick up this novel is that Sinclair Lewis is not Upton Sinclair. Not many people realize this. About a week after November 8th 2016, for example, when I dutifully brought It Can't Happen Here up to a clerk at Barnes & Noble (luckily, I didn't have to decide whether to look under 'L' or 'S'- seemingly overnight, without any overt explanation, all manner of totalitarian literature had been put on prominent display throughout the store, a co
Maru Kun
Sep 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
UPDATE: Dorothy Thompson, Sinclair Lewis's wife at the time, wrote an article Who Goes Nazi?, where she guesses which of her fellow Americans at a party would become Nazis if given the opportunity. Well worth a read and a parlour game well worth reviving.

To give you the flavour, looks like Trump was at the party:
I think young D over there is the only born Nazi in the room. Young D is the spoiled only son of a doting mother. He has never been crossed in his life. He spends his time at the gam
Mar 13, 2017 rated it liked it
Sinclair Lewis's polemic novel, 1935's IT CAN'T HAPPEN HERE, foresaw a dystopian 1936 when a demagogic New England politician, Berzelius ("Buzz") Windrip, seized control of the United States of America and ineluctably imposed a fascist-style dictatorship on the nation. To compose this 350-page playout on the theme of "Yes, it CAN happen here, and here's one way it could," Lewis put away the swift, raucous satirical style of his best-known and most commercially successful novels of the 1920s that ...more
Jason Koivu
Apr 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
It can. It is.

This book is the Nostradamus of our political past, present and potential future.

Check out GoodReads' stats for It Can't Happen Here:

If you're viewing those stats in the future, when the graph no longer covers as far back as 11/8/2016, you will have missed the HUGE spike in activity on this site for this book. Prior to the momentous astounding absolutely fucking unbelievable election of 11/9/2016, interest in this book was hauling in pedest
Bam cooks the books ;-)
This is a fitting fictional follow-up to the weighty nonfiction book The Origins of Totalitarianism which I've recently read. Written in 1935 in the midst of the Great Depression and the volatile political situation taking place around the world which facilitated the rise of demagogues like Adolph Hitler and Benito Mussolini, Sinclair Lewis asks the question: CAN IT HAPPEN HERE IN AMERICA? And the answer he provides in this book is YES, IT CAN!

Set in Vermont beginning in the year 1936, the main
Nandakishore Varma
Jul 26, 2018 marked it as deferred
Yesterday I was having a coffee with a friend. I told him how the recent lynchings in India, the violence against authors and books, and the ghettoisation of Muslims closely parallel 1930's Nazi Germany.

He dismissed my concerns with an airy statement: "It can't happen here."

Well, apparently...
MJ Nicholls
Aside from presaging the reigns of terror under Hitler, Stalin, and the North Korean dynasties, Lewis’s frightening novel from 1935 captures the importance of journalistic resistance to totalitarian regimes, as summed up in the final line, “a Doremus Jessup can never die”, and the importance of retaining one’s humour and pluck in the face of meatheaded thuggeries and brainless violence. The disillusioned left-behinds, the Minute Men, are seen as willing to revert to torture and revenge overnight ...more
Nancy Oakes
Nov 04, 2016 rated it really liked it

Given what's going on in American politics right now, this book wins my prize for most frightening read of 2016. Sorry if you don't like my use of the "p" word, but it is what it is.

To put the novel in its historical perspective, I turn to an article in the New Yorker written by Alexander Nazaryan (October 19th of this year) that says

"Sinclair Lewis published the novel as Adolf Hitler was making Germany great again, violating the Treaty of Versailles by establishing the Wehrmacht. Benito Mussoli
My guess at Amazon sale positions say a couple years ago: **

#25,000 in Books > Literature & Fiction > United States > Classics
#5,000 in Books > Literature & Fiction > Genre Fiction > Political
#50,000 in Books > Literature & Fiction > Classics

- - - - - - - - - -

I guess my rating can stand in for a review at this distance in time since I read it. Anyway, we all understand that the book has achieved a new topicality.

Currently (June 2 '17) on Amazon:

#2 in Books > Literature & Fiction > United St
Susan Stuber
Dec 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I give this five stars, not because it is particularly well-written, but because it is such an important book that really everyone who is concerned about present current world affairs should read. Apparently, before sitting down to write the book, which he did in less than five months in 1935, Lewis did a lot of intense research on how facism rises and works once it is established. Parts of the book may seem tedious to today's reader, because his fictional political characters are almost all sur ...more
David Sarkies
Mar 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Political Theorists and Historians
Recommended to David by: Howard Zinn
Shelves: politics
The Rise of an American Dictatorship
7 April 2012

I discovered this book after reading a collection of interviews by Howard Zinn where he described it as a warning about how the United States could become a fascist dictatorship. Zinn's argument was that the US is already heading down that road, though it has not quite reached that point at the time of the interviews. When comparing the United States as outlined in this book and what we perceive today I would also suggest that we have not yet arri
Holly Wood
Mar 09, 2009 rated it really liked it
I had a professor tell me once that this is the distilled version of a middle-class academic's fears of what would happen during an American holocaust. More so than anything else, they fear the "ignorance" of the working class, bitter from being stepped on for so long they would quickly embrace anyone promising them any sort of redistribution. The lesson is never to fear the poverty that is the source of social problems, but to fear the symptoms.

And you know what? I agree with him. No matter how
Montzalee Wittmann
Describes our times and predicts a terrifying possibility...mix it with 1984 and it is right on target!
Infada Spain
Jan 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
4.5 stars
Jose Moa
Jan 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This novel,with We,1984,Kallocain and Farenheith 451 set up the great totalitarian distopic novels.

In this novel written in 1935 ( it really could happen if Huey Long were not killed,Berzelius Windrip can be considered the alter ego of Huey Long governor of Louisiana ) Sinclair Lewis make a excelent disection of the fascist totalitarian system with all its features of populism,censorship,racism,chauvinism,xenofobia,mesianism,,promises of make the country great again, search of interior and exter
Jun 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Describing a Nazi-fascist government in 1935, the year Lewis wrote this novel, was more than prescient: it was unthinkable. Almost visionary.

Nowadays we take our knowledge for granted. A huge amount of historical evidence, witnesses from both the victims' and the perpetrators' sides, photographs, documentaries, individual as well as collective memories... we know because the events, and the decades that followed those events, allowed us to know; we know because the winners let us know about the
Oct 31, 2019 rated it liked it
A provocative but woefully slow-moving story about a fascist takeover of the United States in the 1930s. This book has some contemporary appeal due to the recent rise of world leaders with conservative authoritarian tendencies -- e.g. Viktor Orban, Jair Bolsonaro, and Donald Trump; some might tag them "neofascists" -- in various parts of the globe. However, I found it several steps below Lewis's excellent earlier novel, Elmer Gantry (a spry lampoon of fundamentalist Christianity), in both entert ...more
Jason Pettus
Mar 19, 2010 rated it really liked it
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

"Whenever you hear a prominent American called a 'Fascist,' you can usually make up your mind that the man is simply a LOYAL CITIZEN WHO STANDS FOR AMERICANISM." --William Randolph Hearst, October 1935, one month after the release of It Can't Happen Here

Although it's easily my favorite of all the things I
J.G. Keely
Lewis' greatest strength as a writer is his sense of social satire, bolstered by his humanist treatment of characters. He sees people as ultimately flawed, always in danger of succumbing to their fears, insecurities, and egos. However, this is no reason to condemn man or his works. Humanists do not expect people to overcome their flaws, like idealists, nor to descend into apologetic guilt in hopes of redemption.

The hope for humanists is that we may come to recognize our flaws, and then to limit
Jan 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bees-shelf
I've bumped this to five stars. I read it nearly 18 months ago and it has really stayed with me. Surely a sign of a five star worthy read.


I mentioned this while I was reading it but I’ll say it again: this book scared me. It was so easy to believe how a country can go from to democracy to a dictatorship just a few short days after an inauguration.

This novel is about the rise of a racist, sexist demagogue… well that is how it starts. This novel covers the consequences of ha
Kenneth Grossman
Jul 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing

It Can't Happen Here (1935) is a prescient commentary on American society in the mid-1930s by Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951), a Noble Prize for Literature ​laureate (1930). It Can't Happen Here is the story of a fictional ​fascist government's rise in mid-1930s USA, an ​insecure society deep in ​socio-economic ​turmoil​. ​This thoughtful novel is very rich and requires the reader to be attentive. I highly recommend it, especially for somewhat politically-minded readers. If you are just looking for a
Mar 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audio, overdrive
Written and set in the 1930s, this was brilliant satire, terrifying in its accuracy. A dictator is elected by gullible people based on promises of upholding good old American values, liberty, strength, protecting US interests and giving everyone (excluding negroes of course) $5000. During his campaign he would "...coldly and almost contemptuously jab his audience with figures and facts, figures and facts that were inescapable even when, as often happened, they were entirely incorrect."

After the
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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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