Possibly the best student of hypocrisy since Voltaire
This portrait of a golden-tongued evangelist-who lives a life of hypocrisy, sensuality, and self-indulgence-is also the chronicle of a reign of vulgarity, which but for Lewis would have left no record of itself.
For the better part of a century, the title of Sinclair Lewis's phenomenally successful and often reviled novel Elmer Gantry (1927) has been a byword for religious fraud and "bunk" evangelism. It might have been supposed that Lewis's form of "sociological realism," in which he wove innumerable details from contemporary life into his narrative, would date badly and that his books would not outlast their own era, but this has not been the case: his Main Street (1920), which satirized life in a fictional hick town -- Gopher Prairie, Minnesota -- is as vivid now as it ever was; there is something of Gopher Prairie in all provincial communities, and not just American ones. Elmer Gantry, too, is timeless; one can hardly turn on a television or radio today without seeing a grisly array of Gantrys plying their trade. Elmer Gantry has even been made into an opera, with a score by Robert Aldridge and a libretto by Herschel Garfein, that premiered in Nashville.