It Can’t Happen Here (Lewis)

Though it was originally published in 1935, this novel  is (cliche alert!) ripped from today’s headlines. This is a story of fear. Lewis, writing prior to WW2, speculates about what it would take for a dictator to rise to power and presents a scenario – akin to the campaign of one of our current candidates – that makes it all seem to happen quite easily.

Lewis’ writing (and this is the third novel of his that I’ve read) requires a certain kind of patience. His characters really do say things like, “Golly.” And they also give a lot of speeches, especially here. Finally, in this one, I think the balance between scene and summary is off. There’s much too much summary. Maybe that’s to suggest how easily and quickly the dictator takes over, but it could also indicate why 1984, with its largely more character-driven approach (except for a few long sections), is the one that more people know today. Lewis also puts his faith in a journalist. Do we still have the same regard for journalism today? Are there journalists that still deserve it?

Berkeley Rep’s stage version of this novel


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