Sunday, August 30, 2009

Reading Too Much Into It

The WSJ asked Joseph Finder to list the five best novels about political conspiracy. His selections include some books that I definitely want to check out. Especially the top pick:

1. It Can't Happen Here

By Sinclair Lewis

Doubleday, 1935

A charismatic Democratic senator who speaks in "noble but slippery abstractions" is elected president, in a groundswell of cultish adoration, by a nation on the brink of economic disaster. Promising to restore America's greatness, he promptly announces a government seizure of the big banks and insurance companies. He strong-arms the Congress into amending the Constitution to give him unlimited emergency powers. He throws his enemies into concentration camps. With scarcely any resistance, the country has become a fascist dictatorship. No black helicopters here, though. Sinclair Lewis's dystopian political satire, now largely forgotten except for its ironic title, was a mammoth best seller in 1935, during the depths of the Depression and the rise of fascism in Europe. His president, Berzelius ("Buzz") Windrip, is a ruthless phony with the "earthy sense of humor of a Mark Twain"; one of the few who dare oppose him openly is a rural newspaper editor who is forced to go on the run. Lewis's prose could be ungainly, but he captured with caustic humor the bumptious narrow- mindedness of small-town life.

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