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LEWIS, Sinclair

It can’t happen here

The Senator was vulgar, almost illiterate, a public liar easily detected, and in his "ideas" almost idiotic, while his celebrated piety was that of a traveling salesman for church furniture, and his yet more celebrated humor the sly cynicism of a country store. Certainly there was nothing exhilarating in the actual words of his speeches, nor anything convincing in his philosophy. His political platforms were only wings of a windmill”

He had every prejudice and aspiration of every American Common Man. He believed in the desirability and therefore the sanctity of thick buckwheat cakes with adulterated maple syrup, in rubber trays for the ice cubes in his electric refrigerator, in the especial nobility of dogs, all dogs, in the oracles of S. Parkes Cadman, in being chummy with all waitresses at all junction lunch rooms, and in Henry Ford (when he became President, he exulted, maybe he could get Mr. Ford to come to supper at the White House), and the superiority of anyone who possessed a million dollars. He regarded spats, walking sticks, caviar, titles, tea-drinking, poetry not daily syndicated in newspapers and all foreigners, possibly excepting the British, as degenerate

I know the Press only too well. Almost all editors hide away in spider-dens, men without thought of Family or Public Interest or the humble delights of jaunts out-of-doors, plotting how they can put over their lies, and advance their own positions and fill their greedy pocketbooks by calumniating Statesmen who have given their all for the common good and who are vulnerable because they stand out in the fierce Light that beats around the Throne. Zero Hour, Berzelius Windrip.



Chapter VIII

The great events of Babbitt’s spring were the secret buying of real-estate options in Linton for certain street-traction officials, before the public announcement that the Linton Avenue Car Line would be extended, and a dinner which was, as he rejoiced to his wife, not only “a regular society spread but a real sure-enough highbrow affair, with some of the keenest intellects and the brightest bunch of little women in town.” It was so absorbing an occasion that he almost forgot his desire to run off to Maine with Paul Riesling.

Though he had been born in the village of Catawba, Babbitt had risen to that metropolitan social plane on which hosts have as many as four people at dinner without planning it for more than an evening or two. But a dinner of twelve, with flowers from the florist’s and all the cut-glass out, staggered even the Babbitts.

For two weeks they studied, debated, and arbitrated the list of guests.

Babbitt marveled, “Of course we’re up-to-date ourselves, but still, think of us entertaining a famous poet like Chum Frink, a fellow that on nothing but a poem or so every day and just writing a few advertisements pulls down fifteen thousand berries a year!”

“Yes, and Howard Littlefield. Do you know, the other evening Eunice told me her papa speaks three languages!” said Mrs. Babbitt.

“Huh! That’s nothing! So do I—American, baseball, and poker!”

“I don’t think it’s nice to be funny about a matter like that. Think how wonderful it must be to speak three languages, and so useful and— And with people like that, I don’t see why we invite the Orville Joneses.”

“Well now, Orville is a mighty up-and-coming fellow!”

“Yes, I know, but— A laundry!”

“I’ll admit a laundry hasn’t got the class of poetry or real estate, but just the same, Orvy is mighty deep. Ever start him spieling about gardening? Say, that fellow can tell you the name of every kind of tree, and some of their Greek and Latin names too! Besides, we owe the Joneses a dinner. Besides, gosh, we got to have some boob for audience, when a bunch of hot-air artists like Frink and Littlefield get going.”

“Well, dear—I meant to speak of this—I do think that as host you ought to sit back and listen, and let your guests have a chance to talk once in a while!”

“Oh, you do, do you! Sure! I talk all the time! And I’m just a business man—oh sure!—I’m no Ph.D. like Littlefield, and no poet, and I haven’t anything to spring! Well, let me tell you, just the other day your darn Chum Frink comes up to me at the club begging to know what I thought about the Springfield school-bond issue. And who told him? I did! You bet your life I told him! Little me! I certainly did! He came up and asked me, and I told him all about it! You bet! And he was darn glad to listen to me and— Duty as a host! I guess I know my duty as a host and let me tell you—” In fact, the Orville Joneses were invited.