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« A New Design | Main | Cheney's Heart Problem »

April 16, 2007


I confess that although I am not at all oblivious of Lewis, it is my misfortune that I haven't read anything of his. Obviously, I should plan to do so, and not merely because he anticipated Buzzsh. The lesson to be learned from this juxtaposition of a work of literature and a political state of affairs separated by three generations is not that Lewis was prescient, but that America toys with fascism as a matter of course.

Lewis a frustrated romantic? You may be right, judging from his autobiography for the Nobel Foundation. He wishes he could depict his life "as possessing some romantic quality," but notes that instead it "has been a rather humdrum chronicle of much reading, constant writing, undistinguished travel à la tripper, and several years of comfortable servitude as an editor." There are several other allusions to unachieved glory in the brief vita, which concludes with a sense of a tentative hope surrounding his "first authentic home" and the prospects of the "beginning of a novelist's career" after his "awkward apprenticeship with all its errors."

Our remoteness from Lewis and his work underscores the loss of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., whom I read, predictably, as a post-adolescent, but not since then.

Thanks for linking to Lewis' autobigraphical page on the Nobel Foundation site - very nice.

You are probably right. It was not so much prescience as the keen and sardonic power to observe the chinks in the heroic armor of a great nation which, as you say, "toys with fascism as a matter of course," simultaneously believing that "It Can't Happen Here."

While the tendency to throw democratic values out the window has been mostly apparent in US foreign policy of Pax Americana, even during benign regimes (Vietnam, Cuba, Central / South America and the Middle East), I would like to know if any other US presidency, including that of Richard Nixon's, came as close to playing by Buzz Windrip's play book in domestic policy as Bush-Cheney-Rove have.

Unless it is required reading in an English lit class, it is always difficult to go back and "discover" an older author who is more or less out of style, although not out of context. I doubt that I would have read Sinclair Lewis now, had it not been for my chance encounter with Babbitt on a lazy afternoon in my youth. In case anyone decides to read just one book by Lewis, I recommend "Main Street."

Got it (or rather, a 2-in-1 book with both Main Street and Babbitt in the same hardcover)! I couldn't find 'It Can't Happen Here', but will look for it once I'm done with these.


Main Street and Babbitt are probably the two best choices for an introduction to Sinclair Lewis' oeuvre - at least as works that we associate him with most closely. As for ICHH, don't worry. You probably have got a pretty good idea of what that book describes from my short report and the last six years of Bush-Cheney-Rove.

Remember, Lewis wrote Main Street and Babbitt in the 1920s. Once you get settled in the rhythm of his slightly old fashioned style of prose and focus on the content, you will see how "contemporary" Lewis remains.

An enticing profile of Lewis. I'm one of those who haven't read him but thanks to a recent gift from a friend I now have ICHH on my shelf and reading list. :)

A recent gift of ICHH? Must be an old fashioned friend or someone sick of the Bushies. Let us know how you like it.

I have read the book. The closest this country has come to its vision was President for life, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

I am reminded of Ben Franklin's words at the Constitutional Convention on September 17, 1787 at the age of 81:
“… I agree to this Constitution, with all its faults, if they are such; because I think a general government necessary for us, there is no form of government but what may be a blessing to the people if well administered; and I believe further that this is likely to be well administered for several years, and can only end in despotism as other forms before it,when people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic government, being incapable of any other.”

I read ICHH a couple of years ago and also noticed the many parallels -- right down to the rally at Madison Square Garden. Also, his paramilitary group is called the Minutemen.

The book is available online here.

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