Thursday, April 27, 2006

"It Can't Happen Here"

Amy Laura Cahn of the ACLU of Pennsylvania wrote in after checking out our list of fiction (see here and here) so far compiled in the series about life in societies that lack habeas-protected individual rights:
I had folks look over your list and the consensus is that you have a pretty extensive list. From our legal program assistant: “Just checked the list, they have all and a couple more, that I could think of; [perhaps] It Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis, but it really doesn't hit this nail that close, so probably not.”
Actually, a few contemporary commentators have noticed the applicability of this 1935 novel to the contemporary era. See, for example, this article.

Here's the (reprint) publisher's synopsis:
The only one of Sinclair Lewis's later novels to match the power of Main Street, Babbitt, and Arrowsmith, It Can't Happen Here is a cautionary tale about the fragility of democracy, an alarming, eerily timeless look at how fascism could take hold in America. Written during the Great Depression when America was largely oblivious to Hitler's aggression, it juxtaposes sharp political satire with the chillingly realistic rise of a President who becomes a dictator to save the nation from welfare cheats, rampant promiscuity, crime, and a liberal press.... It Can't Happen Here remains uniquely important, a shockingly prescient novel that's as fresh and contemporary as today's news.
The New Yorker called it "Not only [Lewis's] most important book but one of the most important books ever produced in this country."

Thanks for the input from the staff at the ACLU of Pennsylvania.

--Marshal Zeringue