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3.7 out of 5 stars
11
3.7 out of 5 stars
Elmer Gantry
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on 4 May 2017
A wonderful portrayal of hypocrisy and ambition in the form of Elmer Gantry and evangelistic ministers who utilise public gullibility, the fear of God, and the willingness to believe in the latter to further their own ambitions. Beautifully written.
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on 8 July 2016
very simple. Still has not arrived in spite of contacting seller
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on 23 January 2017
The American Religious - and political - Right is still a power in the land. Sinclair Lewis paints a vivid picture of a complex phenomenon. He also created an eponymous hero and anti-hero in Elmer Gantry. Exaggerated? All things were possible in that sub-culture. The novel is also an acute observation of American life and society. Lewis fully merited the Nobel Prize, and is unjustly neglected.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 4 June 2013
Elmer Gantry is an intensely unspiritual young man at college in the 1920s. Not particularly academic, he is a strapping 'football gladiator' who goes in for fighting, drinking and girls. His only friend is a passionate atheist.
How Gantry comes to get sucked into theology school, and his failures and successes thereafter make for a highly readable work, that make one look at organised religion in a dubious manner. Elmer's attitude to the whole thing is well illustrated when he gets his first appointment:
'He'd show 'em!...Show 'em how he could build up church membership, build up the collections, get 'em all going with his eloquence - and of course, carry the message of salvation into darkened hearts. It would be mighty handy to have the extra ten a week - and maybe more if he could kid the Schoenheim deacons properly. His first church...his own...and Frank had to take his orders!'
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VINE VOICEon 3 May 2010
Elmer Gantry can be seen as a study in hypocrisy. But what, for me, made it interesting was the way Lewis added real complexity and subtlety to the character of Elmer. Most of the time I found his double standards, cruelty, philistinism and intolerance completely deplorable. But he does feel some genuine enthusiasm for his `calling', and he does sometimes seem to try to do the right thing, admittedly not to any very great effect. I loved one chapter describing his journey to his new parish. It begins with him selflessly and heroically, as he thinks, helping a woman carry her bags off the train, goes on to chart his feelings of irritation as his welcome turns out to be less respectful and delighted than he had hoped, and ends with him experiencing a twinge of lust for his landlady's fourteen year old daughter.

Elmer succeeds in deluding himself that he is a true servant of God, at least some of the time. Oddly that makes him less of a hypocrite than some of the novel's most attractive characters who profess Christianity but are secretly atheist or agnostic. But their behaviour is consistently far more `Christian' than that of Elmer, who uses the most ruthless means to achieve his ends. The satire of the evangelical movement is effectively biting, particularly the portrait of the preacher Sharon Falconer. She is another strange character, more than a match for Elmer, a shrewd businesswoman, whose precise attitude towards the message she preaches remains curiously difficult to fathom.

The loosely episodic structure of the novel made it just a little rambling and repetitive at times - it's not quite such an artistic success as `Babbitt'. But it offers a fascinating depiction of early c.20 America - and much of Lewis's satire still has relevance today.
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VINE VOICEon 13 January 2009
The story begins in the rural Mid-West at the start of the 20th century. Elmer Gantry has been destined from birth, by the choice of his devout widowed mother, for the ministry, and is about to enter a Baptist seminary.

At a few points in the story Gantry is, momentarily and inexplicably, seized by genuine religious fervour, and even remorse for his misdeeds, but the rest of the time he is obsessed with using a religious career to gain money, fame and power, while he has a bit on the side - well several bits, actually. He is a bully, both physically and psychologically, and cleverly calculating when not ruled by his hormones. However, he is empty culturally as well as morally - as a listener to Gantry's radio programme observes, he "was blown out of a saxophone", i.e. he ends up as just another ephemeral feature of the Jazz Age. He often deceives even himself, rewriting his memory of an incident to portray his actions in a much better light than they deserve.

There are several characters in the novel with varying degrees and types of integrity, but the pessimistic message is that only the strong survive, whether bad or good. Repeatedly Lewis suggests that it is better to be an honest atheist than a hypocritical Christian.

One of the strengths of the book is the analysis of how Gantry's relationship with each of the major characters relates to his career, and how it affects each of them - in many cases, disastrously for them. Gantry is, essentially, a friendless user, and there are only two men with whom he ever feels real kinship; they are every bit as cynical as him, though they have somewhat more respect for mankind.

The love of his life, his infatuation with fellow-evangelist Sharon Falconer, is really a story within the story. One could argue that it doesn't fit with the rest of his personality, but Sharon is the only person for whom he is prepared to give up all else. This is because she is truly irrestible to him, and is an even shrewder manipulator of people than he is (though she has a strong, and ultimately fatal, streak of insanity).

As well as attacking the fire-and-brimstone brand of Christianity, the novel has little good to say about the more sedate denominations, and not surprisingly it met considerable hostility on its publication. Lewis clearly suggests that a major weakness of religion is the hypocrisy and self-interest of many church leaders and members.

So far this may sound like a really depressing read, but the reader is constantly buoyed up by Lewis' biting humour and the hilarity of the misadventures which Gantry brings on himself by his indiscretions.

I haven't yet seen the film adaptation (starring Burt Lancaster), but I gather that it ends at the novel's halfway point, so the book will take you much further through Gantry's career.

In providing the context for the events of the novel, Lewis gives an evocative picture of America's transition in twenty years from the horse-and-buggy Mid-West to the cities of the Roaring Twenties.
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on 5 August 2014
The book was tatty with yellow pages, I know it was used but it was not acceptable, I don't think I shall be reading the book it's too dirty and torn.
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on 17 April 2016
Not the actual book, Fake print, strange spacing between words, sentences and paragraphs, text is not all in the same size, basically impossible to read. No reference to publisher, text starts straight away. Very disappointing.
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on 31 January 2013
Really good read. Something to get your teeth into if you have any. Well written too. Couldn't put it down
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on 10 March 2014
Sinclair Lewis (God rest his soul) certainly knew his topic. He gives an inside story of the way tent meetings were organised in the mid-west of America in the early part of the last century. Elmer Gantry is a conniving, hipocrite much like many of the fundamental evangelists who are still doing the rounds today. There was a film by the same name starring Bert Lancaster and Jean Symonds but this only went as far as the death of Sharon Falconer, played by Symonds. The book proceeds with Elmer seeking even more fame and fortune and he never gets his "come-uppance". Like many Politicians he is a firm believer in "redemption" and so gets away with it.
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