By Shoshana Milgram
Ayn Rand, who rarely praised contemporary literature, made an exception for It Can't Happen Here
(1935). In this novel, vicious ideas—allied with physical force—threaten to destroy American freedom: "the men of ritual and the men of barbarism are capable of shutting up the men of science and of silencing them forever." After receiving an inscribed copy of the book, she wrote a letter to Sinclair Lewis: she worshipped him, she said, as a hero and a genius.
This course focuses on Ayn Rand's respect and regard for the novel, along with its colorful history: Lewis's decision to write an antitotalitarian novel (after his wife, a crusading journalist, interviewed Hitler, and was expelled from Germany); the nationwide production of the stage adaptation (opening simultaneously in twenty-two American cities); and the suppression of the screen adaptation (deemed too controversial for release).
Ayn Rand could bear to look around herself "levelly," she said—but she "wanted to look up." In her early thirties, at the dawn of her career, she cherished the chance to look up to Sinclair Lewis. (There is no required reading.)
This course was recorded at the 2008 Objectivist Summer Conference in Newport Beach, CA.
(MP3 download; 4 hrs., 54 min., with Q & A, 202 MB)