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Elmer Gantry

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  4,418 ratings  ·  408 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
Paperback, 352 pages
Published October 1st 1998 by Phébus (first published 1927)
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3.99  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,418 ratings  ·  408 reviews

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Jun 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nobels, unforgettable
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
Richard Derus
Nov 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
J Cravens
Dec 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Jason Koivu
Jun 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 19, 2016 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
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
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)
Aug 30, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-07, favorites
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.
Daniel Villines
Nov 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beliefs are inherent to the human condition. As homo sapiens, beliefs have lodged themselves into the present form of the human psyche for the past 50,000 years. The vast majority of these beliefs are formed by mixing a meager bit of evidence together with a heavy dose of emotion. They lack the necessary foundation, such as a moral conviction of right versus wrong or the scientific process, to form anything resembling a solid truth. As such, a society founded upon these beliefs cannot grow.

Demetrius Rogers
May 30, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks, fiction
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 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
Mikey B.
Dec 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
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 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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….
1929 Grosset and Dunlap hardcover, vintage. $4 at McKay, Nashville. Very happy to find this. No original paper dustjacket, alas. The cover art differs from the picture uploaded (see below for the actual cover art of this edition). The '29 Grosset has a church silhouette and a cool embossing on the lower right front.

Elmer Gantry was made into a lively and impressive film in 1960 starring Burt Lancaster (in a hell-raising performance), and it was one of my dad's all-time favorite movies. As Lewis
Aug 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Oh man, I am left a little speechless. Let me pull myself together. I just finished this classic novel by Sinclair Lewis. I have owned this book for decades but only recently decided now is the time to read it. It is a look at the morals of a church man, Elmer Gantry, who chooses to go into the ministry because he figures it would be easier than to get a degree and become a lawyer. He does go to ministry school and becomes an ordained minister, and he is really good at what he does. Sadly, what ...more
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
Dec 12, 2013 rated it liked it
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
May 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Forget Main Street. Forget Babbit. Elmer Gantry is Sinclair Lewis' masterpiece no matter what anyone says. Every page still rings true in the 21st century. Elmer Gantry is the loudest, most boisterous, most relevant character in American literature. It's funny, it's sad. it's politically incorrect...Oh, stop reading this and get this book!
Vicki Jacobs
Aug 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
J.K. Grice
Oct 05, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
A wonderful look at the hypocrisy of a "religious" preacher, Elmer Gantry. This book reminds me of Mark Twain's famous quote:

"Religion was invented when the first con-man met the first fool."
Gary Peterson
Arguably the Great American Novel, or at least one that captures the first quarter of the 20th century with especially keen insight into Christian revivalism and evangelicalism with peeks into early Pentecostalism and New Thought spiritualism. It's a cliché but nonetheless true--the book is as timely today as it was in 1927. Elmer Gantry and his heirs are among us today, making a racket out of religion and fleecing the sheep who, Lewis demonstrates, are eager to belly up cash in hand.

Elmer Gant
Jan 06, 2010 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 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sinclair
The absolute and extreme limit of sensationalism reached once again, right here in Sinclair Lewis's brilliant Elmer Gantry!

As always, ol' Red writes about his era in such a relatable way that it's simply bizarre that the story is taking place 100 years ago, which ordinarily seems such an astonishingly exotic time. It's obvious that the world described is much different than the one I live in, yet at its heart many of the struggles, questions, and issues remain the same. The people themselves are
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 rated it did not like it
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
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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
“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.” 54 likes
“He had, in fact, got everything from the church and Sunday School, except, perhaps, any longing whatever for decency and kindness and reason” 9 likes
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