Elmer Gantry

By Sinclair Lewis
Read by Anthony Heald

15.93 Hours 01/01/2006 unabridged
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Elmer Gantry is the portrait of a silver-tongued evangelist who rises to power within his church, yet lives a life of hypocrisy, sensuality, and ruthless self-indulgence. The title character starts out as a greedy, shallow, philandering Baptist minister, turns to evangelism, and eventually becomes the leader of a large Methodist congregation. Throughout the novel, Gantry encounters fellow religious hypocrites. Although often exposed as a fraud, Gantry is never fully discredited. When Elmer Gantry was first published in 1927, it created a public furor. Now it is considered a landmark in American literature and one of the most penetrating studies of hypocrisy in modern literature. The novel also represents the evangelistic activity of America in the 1920s and people’s attitudes toward it.

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Summary

Summary

Winner of the Audie AwardAudie Award for Best Literary Fiction

Elmer Gantry is the portrait of a silver-tongued evangelist who rises to power within his church, yet lives a life of hypocrisy, sensuality, and ruthless self-indulgence.

The title character starts out as a greedy, shallow, philandering Baptist minister, turns to evangelism, and eventually becomes the leader of a large Methodist congregation. Throughout the novel, Gantry encounters fellow religious hypocrites. Although often exposed as a fraud, Gantry is never fully discredited.

When Elmer Gantry was first published in 1927, it created a public furor. Now it is considered a landmark in American literature and one of the most penetrating studies of hypocrisy in modern literature. The novel also represents the evangelistic activity of America in the 1920s and people’s attitudes toward it.

Editorial Reviews

Editorial Reviews

“Elmer Gantry is charismatic without being likable, which makes voicing him a tricky business for Anthony Heald…Heald’s pacing, his accents, [and] his narrative drive are all excellent.” AudioFile
“What always made Lewis’s novels richer than mere satire was the affection he so clearly felt even for the people and institutions he was most eager to expose. As awful as Gantry is, we can’t suppress a sneaking liking for him, and neither can his author…So much a product of its own historic moment, it turns out to be a book for our time as well, and probably for all times.” Brooke Allen, author of Twentieth-Century Attitudes
“The background of Elmer Gantry is the religious activity of America in evangelistic cirles and the attitudes of the nineteen twenties toward it. The religious life in the United States had fallen into a condition of listless and at the same time enthusiastic decay…What the Lewis novel pictures, in part, is the confusion of…the material and the spiritual and the consequent corruption of both.” Mark Schorer, author of Sinclair Lewis: An American Life

Reviews

Reviews

by Ash Ryan 9/13/2017
Overall Performance
Narration
Story

Brilliant, hilarious, terrifying

"Just what were the personality and the teachings of Jesus? I'll admit it's the heart of the controversy over the Christian religion:---aside from the fact that, of course, most people believe in a church because they were born to it. But the essential query is: Did Jesus---if the Biblical accounts of him are even half accurate---have a particularly noble personality, and were his teachings particularly original and profound? You know it's almost impossible to get people to read the Bible honestly. They've been so brought up to take the church interpretation of every word that they read into it whatever they've been taught to find there. ... Just what are the teachings of Christ? Did he come to bring peace or more war? He says both. Did he approve earthly monarchies or rebel against them? He says both. ... One place in the Sermon on the Mount he advises...: 'Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven,' and then five minutes later he's saying, 'Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them, otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.' That's an absolute contradiction, in the one document which is the charter of the whole Christian Church. Oh, I know you can reconcile them...That's the whole aim of the ministerial training: to teach us to reconcile contradictions by saying that one of them doesn't mean what it means. ... My objection to the church isn't that the preachers are cruel, hypocritical, actually wicked, though some of them are that too.... My chief objection is that ninety-nine per cent. of sermons and Sunday School teachings are so agonizingly dull!" -- Frank Shallard

"O Lord, thou hast stooped from thy mighty throne and rescued thy servant from the assault of the mercenaries of Satan! Mostly we thank thee because thus we can go on doing thy work, and thine alone! Not less but more zealously shall we seek utter purity and the prayer-life, and rejoice in freedom from all temptations! ... Let me count this day, Lord, as the beginning of a new and more vigorous life, as the beginning of a crusade for complete morality and the domination of the Christian church through all the land. Dear Lord, the work is but begun! We shall yet make these United States a moral nation!" -- Elmer Gantry

Here, Sinclair Lewis tells the story of American religion in the early 20th century, through the characters of Elmer Gantry---a self-righteous, hypocritical evangelical preacher---and his foil, Frank Shallard---his honest, reflective, and therefore doubtful colleague. The story progresses from ridiculous, to surreal, to nightmarish. Unfortunately, it is all too relevant still today.

Anthony Heald's reading of this audio edition is inspired, very deserving of the Audie Award it won. He brings Lewis's dialogue to life, making it accessible to the contemporary listener---no mean feat! Highly recommended.

Author

Author Bio: Sinclair Lewis

Harry Sinclair Lewis (1885–1951), the son of a country doctor, was born in Sauk Centre, Minnesota. He attended Yale University, where he was editor of the literary magazine, and graduated in 1907. After a few of his stories had appeared in magazines and his first novel, Our Mr. Wrenn (1914), had been published, he was able to write full time. He was awarded the 1926 Pulitzer Prize for Arrowsmith (1925) but refused to accept the honor. However, he accepted the Nobel Prize awarded him in 1930. He was the first American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.

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Details

Details

Available Formats : Digital Download, Digital Rental, CD, MP3 CD
Category: Fiction/Classics
Runtime: 15.93
Audience: Adult
Language: English