Elmer Gantry (1927) by Sinclair Lewis
Elmer Gantry (Signet Classics)
by Sinclair Lewis
$7.95 List Price
It’s hard to pin down a signal moment when reality in America, as Philip Roth first claimed, became too unruly a beast—too repellent in its pieties, too cheap in its tastes, too nakedly consumed with its own advancement—for the novelist to try and capture it without the extreme risk of badness. But my vote is for the 1920s, a decade, let’s not forget, that featured Sacco and Vanzetti, the Scopes Monkey Trial, the Ku Klux Klan, and the staged kidnapping of “Sister” Aimee Semple McPherson, the biggest radio evangelist of the day—and that’s just a partial list.
Sinclair Lewis’s howl of outrage at the state of affairs in America’s soul, Elmer Gantry (a No. 1 best seller in 1927), could be the best bad novel we have about the unholy alliance between moralism, media, and political power, and it’s certainly one of the
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