Reading IT CAN’T HAPPEN HERE in the time of Trump is a hugely depressing experience. So much of his rise is here in a book written in the 1930s. There’s the nationalism, the populism, the demonization of ‘the other’. There’s the making enemies out of anyone who has the temerity to disagree with him. What makes it all doubly depressing is that in writing this in 1936, Lewis simply transposed the rise of Hitler onto America and went from there to create a piece of satirical fiction. Unfortunately, it now feels like horrible reality.
If there’s a saving grace of some kind, it’s that Trump and the people around him seem to lack the intelligence and organisation skills to truly turn the country into a full-on fascist dictatorship. (There’s a reason that John Oliver refers to the Meuller investigation as “Stupid Watergate”.) All of these people seem, to one degree or another, worryingly incompetent. Having said that, if you’re a six year old child who finds yourself in a cage in Texas and you haven’t seen your parents in weeks, then being told that the people behind your unimaginable suffering don’t have the wit or wisdom to truly destroy democracy in America is small comfort indeed.
As an actual book, it’s intriguing without ever being gripping. Focusing on one family in Vermont, the book gives us an outside view of the rise to power of the new leader. In a way that’s a great idea as it gives us an on the ground experience of what society goes through. But, even as terrible things happen, it remains a curiously low-stakes read. It’s a dreadful warning, but one which probably frightens the intellect more than the heart.
Although maybe I’m being unfair on it. As even if they are less bright than their fictional counterparts, the fact is that the reality is much more scary and horrible than any fiction can possibly be.
My new thriller, EDEN ST. MICHEL is out in two weeks. You can order your copy at the bargain price of £1.99/$1.99 here!