Books: Buzz & Antibuzz

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IT CAN'T HAPPEN HERE—Sinclair Lewis —Doubleday, Doran ($2.50).

Skinny, smiling, bearded Doremus Jessup was editor of the Fort Beulah (Vt.) Daily Informer, an old-fashioned liberal whose paper expressed his independent views. He lived contentedly with his motherly wife, his belligerently outspoken daughter, enjoyed a quiet love affair with the Fort Beulah feminine rebel despite his 60 years. As an alert editor, Doremus was interested in the rise of a Western Senator, Berzelius Windrip, commonly called "Buzz," a bubbling and buoyant individual whose personality and career closely resembled those of the late Huey Long. Windrip ruled unchallenged in his own State, built roads, enlarged the militia until it became his private army. When he got the support of Bishop Prang of Indiana, whose radio addresses reached millions. Windrip won the Democratic nomination for President in 1936. Thereupon Editor Doremus Jessup knew that history of an obnoxious sort was soon to be made.

Franklin Roosevelt countered by organizing the Jeffersonian Party. Republicans nominated Honest Walt Trowbridge who spoke well but promised little. But "Buzz" Windrip raved like a madman, assisted in his ravings by his creepy publicity agent and fixer, Lee Sarason. His followers got publicity by making speeches in strange places, such as copper mines, fishing fleets, sporting houses. His supporters were organized as the Forgotten Men, sang a goofy campaign song ("Buzz and buzz"), beat up Reds, Jeffersonians, innocent bystanders, lumping them together as the Antibuzz. His program, based on sharing the wealth, was as emphatic as it was meaningless. He claimed to be just a plain, simple, common man. He told bad jokes. He was elected.

Over the length and breadth of the land, even in Fort Beulah, trouble broke out. Doremus' hired man, "Shad," grew more insolent than he had been, spied on Doremus, became secretary of the League of Forgotten Men, then commander of the local branch of Windrip's private army. Windrip dissolved Congress, arrested protesting Senators, imprisoned his ally, Bishop Prang, had Prang's rebellious supporters shot, ordered his Minute Men to turn machine guns on crowds. When Doremus wrote an editorial criticizing such statesmanship, he was locked up, his son-in-law was killed, his paper taken over by Windrip men. Editor Doremus became a secret agent of those opposing Windrip. He smuggled propaganda from exiles in Canada, was arrested, tortured, sent to a concentration camp, almost died. Doremus got out, lived in exile in Canada until Windrip was overthrown. Windrip's publicity man became dictator. Then a puritanical general overthrew the publicity man and declared war on Mexico. Revolution broke out, followed by civil war. Doremus sneaked into the enemy lines, unafraid, for, in the last words of the novel, "a Doremus Jessup can never die."

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