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The novel (amazingly, it was published in 1927) tells the journey of Elmer Gantry, a narcissistic, insincere, bigoted, unethical, womanizing, hypocritical student who abandons his ambition to become a lawyer to become a “preacher of the faith.” His journey leads Elmer from ordained Baptist minister, a "New Thought" evangelist, traveling salesman and eventually Methodist minister of a large prestigious church. Along the way Elmer contributes to the downfall, physical injury, mental harm and even death of key people around him, including a genuine minister, Frank Shallard. If you are expecting redemption here—you will not find it! This is a satire, funny, biting, infuriating and downright frightening (Elmer comes up with a plan to control/legislate the morals/values of the US—now where have I seen that before??). Not only do we see the hypocrisy and falseness of Elmer—but it is evident in those around him (even "Scotty" the golf pro is not an actual Scot, but a fraud who learned his false accent from a Irishman!) I was so surprised how relevant this novel was—despite the fact that it was written in the 20s. The characters are vivid, the issues presented complex and still true today (I wondered at the end if this book had been read by the Christian Coalition--to get ideas for their campaign!). A 5 out of 5 stars—a must read!
posted Aug 12, 2014 at 2:20PM
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