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Elmer Gantry

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  4,943 ratings  ·  475 reviews

Possibly the best student of hypocrisy since Voltaire

This portrait of a golden-tongued evangelist-who lives a life of hypocrisy, sensuality, and self-indulgence-is also the chronicle of a reign of vulgarity, which but for Lewis would have left no record of itself.

Hardcover, 447 pages
Published March 21st 2013 by Amereon Limited (first published 1927)
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Average rating 3.99  · 
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 ·  4,943 ratings  ·  475 reviews

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Jun 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Revival of the Revival

It has always impressed me that Donald Trump’s political rallies are little more than evangelical tent meetings. These gatherings are a uniquely American institution dating to before the Revolution. They seem to run in cycles of popularity of approximately fifty years from the middle of the 18th century. What Trump has accomplished quite apart from any political disruption is the latest revival of the Revival. Elmer Gantry is a how-to manual for this kind of work and ha
Richard Derus
Nov 20, 2011 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 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bigoted Bully in Beliefs Biz

Flatulistic televangelist farming for funds

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 could be even wor
Jayne Cravens
Dec 05, 2008 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
Jason Koivu
Jun 23, 2013 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
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 never have garnered.

As for Elmer Gantry, I am a Christian and this book does arguably, take a pretty dim view of some or po
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
MJ Nicholls
Jul 01, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Senryu Review:

Huckster hick Gods up
to climb the Catholic pole
of cant and bunkum
robin friedman
Jan 15, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Elmer Gantry In Novel And Opera

After listening to a new recording of an opera, "Elmer Gantry" by Robert Aldridge with a libretto by Herschel Garfein, I wanted to read the famous 1927 novel by Sinclair Lewis on which the opera was based. Composed in 2007, the opera receives an excellent performance from the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, the Florentine Opera Company and a cast of distinguished singers.

The outlines of the Elmer Gantry story are familiar from the novel and from its well-known movie
Mikey B.
Dec 19, 2012 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
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)
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
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.
Shane Ver Meer
Oct 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful look into hypocrisy, in this case the kind demonstrated by religion.
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.

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
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
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."
carl  theaker
Oct 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: artsy, fiction
Author Sinclair Lewis is known for his detailed, intimate depictions of every day characters living their daily lives, their nuances and foibles, so many characters that the variety is impressive. Reverend-to-be Elmer Gantry though rises above the everyday, but not the routine. This tale is told in what feels like could be two books, maybe two and quarter.

In the first half Gantry finds his way in life, in the early years of the 20th century of middle America, from the stereotypical college dumb
Aug 10, 2014 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
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!
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
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
Jan 22, 2017 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….
Vicki Jacobs
Aug 01, 2008 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.
Jun 06, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, fiction
I knew going in that this book was a satirical slam on the hypocrisy of American Christians, but since it’s regarded as a classic and all, I figured I would just grit my teeth and take my lumps.
I suppose the critiques that Lewis levels against the church were more original and scandalous at the time, but they have since become so commonplace as tropes and cliches that they have lost their emotional or satirical impact, if not their relevance. Elmer is a truly reprehensible character, a hypocriti
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 21, 2014 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
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Should Elmer Gantry be Considered an Icon in American Literature? 17 47 Aug 26, 2018 07:00AM  

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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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