23 November 2010

88. It Can't Happen Here

It Can't Happen Here - Sinclair Lewis

This was an outstanding book written by an author who has stood the test of time. Lewis is more famous for writing Babbitt, Main Street and Arrowsmith, but this book is awesome. If those are better then I will enjoy reading them in the future.

This book was written in the 1930's and was Lewis' response to what he saw as a rise in nationalism in response to Hitler's growing power with the Nazi's in Germany. "It can't happen here" is satirical (sarcasm and irony), meaning that America becoming a facist nation is not possible because we are a nation of free people with Constitutional guarantees to those liberties. But, it does happen in this story.

It is an intricate plot where the stage is set by a political group where they are able to win the presidency, stack the Supreme Court judges, abolish Congress, gut the Bill of Rights, send dissenting citizens to rehabilitation camps, have unfriendly press just disappear, etc etc...and all this is done while the American people support it because there is an "emergency" situation. All the freedoms will be restored later when the problems are solved. Yeah, right.

Anyway, the plot was so in depth that I was lost at times. Why did Lewis need to include such detail? Why not? In the end it made the book that much better. The details piled up so much that it felt like it was far more real.

I find it fascinating that this book was published in 1935 and so much of the detail actually applies to the situation we find ourselves in today. Was this book prophetic? Did Lewis predict the future? I doubt it. I think the situation we are in today is the same situation he found our country in back in those days. I don't think the country changes all that much politically. Socially it does. Economically is does. Politically, I think we are still having many of the same arguments today that were being had back them. Therefore, the book seems like it is speaking for today's political climate...because it is still the same.

At the same time, I did find some of the tidbits quite fascinating. One, for instance, was that "due to war hysteria" people started calling sauerkraut "Freedom Cabbage". I found that very interesting. Mostly because 60+ years later France makes us mad and we start calling french-fries "Freedom Fries". Prophecy? Nah. Just a pretty neat coincidence.

Another interesting little detail...during the primaries for the Presidential election...before Berzelius "Buzz" Windrip won...there were campaign signs for other candidates. What did those signs say? "Save the Constitution!" "Robinson for Sanity!" Sound a little like some of the buzzwords over the last few months?

I learned a new word that I will be able to use in everyday conversation. :-)
SLATTERN: a slovenly, untidy woman or girl. a slut; harlot.

There was one other thing. Much of the story took place in Vermont, where Doremus Jessup lives, and a woman there had an accent that was used in a conversation. In that conversation she said "Freavensake." I remember hearing this used by my grand parents in Massachusetts. I remember thinking for a while that it was one word because of the accent they had and the way it was said so quickly. I found it hilarious that Lewis used it as a single word in this book and brought me back to my preteen years instantly. That was awesome. By the way, freavensake means "for heavens sake".

I purposely avoided blogging about the plot of the book. I do not want to mess it up for anyone wishing to read it. I think you should some time.

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