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Babbitt (Twentieth Century Classics) [Paperback]

Sinclair Lewis
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

28 Feb 1991 0140181237 978-0140181234 New edition
A satirical story of middle-class America in the 1920s, this book chronicles the follies, ambitions and fantasies of Babbitt.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; New edition edition (28 Feb 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140181237
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140181234
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 12.8 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 6,383,853 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

is by its hardness, its efficiency, its compactness that Mr. Lewis's work excels --Virginia Woolf --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

A satirical portrait of a town obsessed by capitalism and the 'values' of the marketplace --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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The towers of Zenith aspired above the morning mist; austere towers of steel and cement and limestone, sturdy as cliffs and delicate as silver rods. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Wicked satire of small town 1920s America 10 Mar 2003
Format:Paperback
If you are at all curious about why American society and culture is the way it is today, you could do a lot worse than read this novel to find out something of its history. It's fascinating as a picture of a period (the 1920s) and the story of how business and the desires of the individual small town middle class American became wholly entangled together.
Lewis' prose is not for everyone. If you want a rollicking good read and enjoy a speedily moving story-line, then this may not be your cup of tea. His language and style can sometimes seem dated, but if you can get beyond this you will want to read Babbitt instead for the naturalistic description, the humour, the biting satirical comment and the wicked character portraits and excruciating -- and fascinating -- detail about the period and the individuals who inhabit it.
I don't think Sinclair Lewis wrote a better book than Babbitt, so if you enjoy this book and the themes it explores, you might want to read some Theodore Dreiser (try The Financier) or, better still, go a little earlier and try William Dean Howells' A Hazard of New Fortunes or The Rise of Silas Lapham.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By Guy
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
...as well as a fantastic satire of the American middle-classes in the 1920s.

George F Babbitt is a successful businessman in the American Midwest who starts, slowly at first, to rebel against the conformity of respectable society in the (fictional) small city of Zenith, initially bringing confusion from family and friends, and later his causing his own ostracism from the local respectable set. Lewis described in a letter to his publisher how "He is all of us Americans at 46, prosperous but worried, wanting - passionately - to seize something more than motor cars and a house before it's too late."

It's a wonderful novel, and if you've never read any Sinclair Lewis before then this is a great place to start. He combines gentle humour through fantastic observation of characters with biting satire. You can be chuckling happily one moment and wincing the next. He also manages to create a character here who is entirely believable, likeable for all his follies and weaknesses, and eventually quite inspiring. Set over two years in Babbitt's life, with a somewhat ambiguous ending, it is a great piece of writing judged either as satire or as a touching portrait of a changing man. I really would recommend this novel to anyone.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By Sarah A. Brown VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
I've only recently discovered Sinclair Lewis and am now working my way through his wonderfully absorbing novels about small town American life. His slightly earlier novel `Main Street' (1920) was all about a woman who is disappointed in her husband and bored by her neighbours. George Babbitt is in some ways a parallel figure, a fairly prosperous and conventional salesman who goes through a mid-life crisis and begins to have some doubts about the American Dream. I was struck by the similarities between Lewis's description of 1920s America and our own society. Babbitt's is a world of extravagant advertising campaigns, self help books, New Age style gurus and product lust.

Although we are encouraged to feel some sympathy with Babbitt and his friend Paul, both of whom are tired of their wives, Lewis - as you'd expect from the author of `Main Street' - is careful to show us that these women have problems and disappointments of their own. Paul is actually the person whom Babbitt cares for most - and there is something touching about the way Lewis depicts his inarticulate but protective affection for his friend.

Babbitt is an irritating and not particularly admirable character. Yet somehow it's impossible not to identify with him. As I read I was reminded of Ricky Gervais' character in `The Office' - he makes you cringe, partly because you suspect you might be just a tiny bit like him. Babbitt also made me think of Joyce's Leopold Bloom - and in fact Lewis's novel was published in the same year as `Ulysses'. `Ulysses' may be all very well for those long-hair types - but if you want to read a story about regular folks then buy `Babbitt' - it's swell!
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By John P. Jones III TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Sinclair Lewis was born and raised in a small town in America's heartland, Sauk Centre, Minnesota, in 1885. "Boosterism" and the gods of growth have by-passed his birthplace. Today it still has a population of not much more than 4,000. Like Faulkner, who knew well the people around Oxford, Mississippi, Lewis knew the people who lived in the small towns of mid-America between the World Wars, and portrayed them, often in an unflattering light. His first commercial success was Main Street, published in 1920, followed by "Babbitt," in 1922, and then Arrowsmith and Elmer Gantry. "Babbitt" is now an official word in the American language, meaning "a smugly conventional person interested chiefly in business and social success and indifferent to cultural values," in short, a Philistine. Sinclair Lewis was the first American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature; it was awarded in 1930. I read all four of the aforementioned works of his in the 1960's, and as the centennial of his works approach, thought I'd give one or more a re-read to see how the works aged, as well as my perspective of them.

George F. Babbitt is 46 years old, with a wife, Myra, who is described as being dumpy, ignored and corseted. They have three children: Verona who has just graduated from Bryn Mawr, and is seeking to be a secretary; Theodore Roosevelt (Babbitt) who is in high school, and into cars, and Tinka, a daughter age 10. George makes his money "glad-handing" and selling pieces of the earth (real estate). They live in Zenith, Indiana, a town of around 300,000.
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