Saturday, June 6, 2009

65. Elmer Gantry

By:  Sinclair Lewis
Rated 5 Stars
From:  Library

Sometime way back in my past life I saw the movie but only have vague memories of it.  Good thing that I saw it though because I can now picture Elmer Gantry as Burt Lancaster instead of - oh maybe that smarmy Jimmy Swaggert or one of those other con artists like Jim Bakker or Jerry Falwell.  Sinclair Lewis was either a prophet or else had a window into the future because he certainly nailed those guys.  It's amazing.

Elmer Gantry is such a despicable character that I had to stop and let my blood pressure settle down every now and then.  But it is such an accurate portrayal of the times and such a good reminder that the stupid and the gullible with be with us always that I continued on.  It's like being mesmerized by a cobra or something.

PUBLISHER DESCRIPTION ON AMAZON:  ELMER GANTRY still reads like a story of our times. Though it covers a period roughly stretching from 1902 to 1926, and America has been transformed since then, the basic idea of the novel---how a man, selfish, ignorant, bullying, and posing as a 'regular guy', can fool most of the people most of the time---is still very much relevant to us. Business was the heart of America in Lewis' day, and it still is. But a career model drawn from that sphere could be used in many other walks of life. ELMER GANTRY is about a man who uses religion and a Protestant church to rise socially, to get and abuse power for his own ends. From Elmer's evangelical college days with his drinking, womanizing, total lack of ability or interest in studies, and his lying and maneuvering to get what he wants, to the stunning but realistic conclusion to the book, Lewis paints a vibrant portrait of an unprincipled climber ; a man who will change any opinion, betray anybody, and do anything to get ahead. If we consider the sagas of TV evangelists in our days, the difference between their revealed hypocrisies and those written by Lewis is startlingly small. The sole difference was that in the 1920s, there was no television for Elmer Gantry to exploit.
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