It Can't Happen Here

It Can't Happen Here

Book - 2014
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A cautionary tale about the rise of fascism in the United States first published in 1935. During the presidential election of 1936, Doremus Jessup, a newspaper editor, observes with dismay that many of the people he knows support the candidacy of a fascist, Berzelius Windrip. When Windrip wins the election, he forcibly gains control of Congress and the Supreme Court, and, with the aid of his personal paramilitary storm troopers, turns the United States into a totalitarian state. Jessup opposes him, is captured, and escapes to Canada.
Publisher: New York : Signet Classics, [2014.]
ISBN: 9780451465641
Characteristics: xv, 397 p. ; 19 cm


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Apr 03, 2019

Continue page 74, end of chapter 9

Aug 22, 2017

Perhaps because my parents were teenagers during the period covered by this book, I found it an easy read, almost a page-turner. Doremus Jessup and his friends are fleshed-out nicely, but one must remember that Lewis uses every character in this book as an archetype for some position or attitude. For instance, token Communist Karl Pascal is used to represent the fractured Left, forming circular firing squads, which is as accurate today as it was in the 1930s. Lewis has fun with the names he uses for his characters, poking at some of the well-known persons of his era. I learned that during the Great War, sauerkraut was referred to as “Liberty cabbage,” showing that “Freedom fries” used against the French during the Iraq invasion had a historical antecedent.
Commenters have compared Buzz Windrip’s campaign to Donald Trump’s, and I suppose that 2016 could be compared to the fictional 1936 quite easily. But Windrip understood the political game and had a significantly skilled management team, so there is no comparison between 2017 and the fictional 1937.

Jul 31, 2017

I read this novel about forty years ago. It's very artificial, but not unreadably so. The same applies to Lewis's KINGSBLOOD ROYAL, an assault on racism. If Lewis were writing today, he would likely satirize big government regimentation and Supreme Court imposition of abortion and gay marriage against the will of the people expressed through their state legislatures. And he would surely be alarmed by the anti-Russian hysteria that Democrats are trying to fan in order to subvert the result of the 2016 election.

Jul 28, 2017

Amazingly prophetic story about an American president who leads the country down the path of fascism. This book was written in 1935 during the rise of Hitler and Mussolini. It's mostly seen thru the eyes of a newspaper editor, and gives an educational view of attitudes during the Depression. Communism and socialism are trying to take foothold in America as people look for scapegoats and solutions to the horrors of the Depression. The story is prophetic because of the parallels to the Trump administration. I gave it 4 stars because there were times it was too predictable, and other times when it appeared to be rushing thru events just to reach the end. Otherwise, a very prescient tale worth reading.

Apr 09, 2017

If it weren’t for the events of today in the U.S., this 1930’s political satire would be all but forgotten. However, the fascinating similarities in the rise of fictitious fascist populist Buzz Windrip makes you realize that the more things change the more they stay the same. Topical references of the day and the formal writing style do make reading this book sometimes difficult and tedious, but Lewis’ command of language rewards the patient reader with some delightful paragraphs of sly, dry, and wry humour and piercing observations of human nature. The characters who support Windrip are aptly and hilariously named: Dr. Hector Macgoblin, patriot singer and rotary club member Mrs. Adelaide Tarr Gimmitch, Senator Porkwood (the new Attorney General), Bishop Paul Peter Prang, and the League of Forgotten Men. On the other hand, the denigrating attitudes of that time to “Negroes” and “Jews” are jarring and distasteful. One is left despairing of the follies of the human race. It was H.L. Mencken who said in his newspaper column in 1920: “As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”

Apr 08, 2017

It is difficult to read through this book and not just because it was written long ago.

However, it is worth trying to read it... whole passages can be lifted and applied to Trump and his campaign for the White House. That is probably the only reason to give this book a chance.

Unfortunately, I didn't have enough stolen moments to get through this one before the due date.

I sped read the last part to see things go from bad to worse with underground political activism, etc.

I strongly suspect very few of the 85 OPL patrons waiting to read this book (April 2017) will finish it. Some won't even try after a few chapters. Just read the previous comment for insight.

Mar 13, 2017

While I understand this book's sudden return to popularity, being viewed as relevant in view of the recent election of Trump, I'm afraid it's being given much better reviews than it deserves. The theme is of course valid. Regrettably, the writing is so bombastic and overblown, riddled with hyperbole and a style of dialogue that's not only archaic but was unlikely to have ever really been in general usage, that the book is practically unreadable. I found myself skipping over whole sections simply because I couldn't tolerate the language. Further, the characters are comic-book cutouts, archetypes entirely lacking in reality or substance.
But the worst failing of all is that the bulk of the book covers what happens AFTER Windrip's election, the abuses, the reign of terror, all of it predictable. What is lacking is a serious exploration of the manner in which Windrip lied and manipulated his way to power, the conditions in the USA that made his campaign appeal to so many, the deep seated animosities within the population that he was able to use to divide and conquer. THAT is the political message that needed to be seriously explored if this "cautionary tale" were to have any real value to us today.
I will state one thing in his favor: Lewis correctly identifies the latent streak of fascism that exists in many levels in the political thinking of Americans and which has existed for a long time. Every so often, it rears its ugly head, appearing in the 1930s as pro-Hitler sentiment masquerading as anti-communism and in the 1950s in the guise of the HUAC headed by Sen. McCarthy. More recently, it has been a factor in the emergence of small, armed, virulent anti-government cells of home-grown terrorists and even the so-called Tea Party which pretends to be a populist "movement". The unpleasant truth is that this anti-democratic element is as American as apple pie; its origin possibly goes back to the founding of the American republic and the sort of robustly self-reliant people who were inclined to take it upon themselves to face the wilderness without the benefit of a constabulary to protect them from hostile natives whose land they were stealing and whose way of life they were determined to destroy. Fascism is essentially a political credo based on the rule of the bully; to succeed it needs to convince those who feel aggrieved that they are victims of some "elite" and that this Strong Man will take up their cause and right the balance in their favor. It exploits political naiveté and thrives on terrorizing anyone who might oppose its edicts. So I applaud Lewis for identifying this factor; I just wish he had done so more thoroughly and with a writing style that was a lot more readable.

Jan 01, 2017

I found it helpful to also read the Afterword in this book prior to reading the novel -- and then rereading the Afterword after having read it.

A 1968 television movie Shadow on the Land (alternate title: United States: It Can't Happen Here) was produced by Screen Gems as a pilot for a series loosely based on this book.
See YouTube for full version of the pilot, "Shadow on the Land."

Dec 31, 2016

Very hard for me to read, with archaic prose, run-on sentences and superfluous descriptions. However, the premise is frighteningly relevant today.

Jun 08, 2016

further reading:
“Fascism: Why Not Here?”
by Brian Fogarty,
Potomac Books, 2009, hc
ISBN-10: 1597972231, ISBN-13: 978-1597972239
“Friendly Fascism: The New Face of Power in America”
Bertram M. Gross (Author), Mark Crispin Miller (Editor), Chris Hedges (Introduction)
“America at War with Itself: Authoritarian Politics in a Free Society”
Henry A. Giroux (author), Robin D.G. Kelley (foreword)
City Lights Publishers (to be published Sept. 23,2016)
ISBN-10: 0872867323, ISBN-13: 978-0872867321

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Aug 18, 2016

Could a fascist regime take hold in America? This book shows exactly how it could happen here - and even though it was written in 1935, it still resonates today. Riveting plot with the motivations clearly (and insidiously) explained and made plausible.


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Aug 18, 2016

"He loved the people just as much as he feared and detested persons."


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