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Radical Innocent: Upton Sinclair [Kindle Edition]

Anthony Arthur
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $27.95
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Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

Few American writers have revealed their private as well as their public selves so fully as Upton Sinclair, and virtually none over such a long lifetime (1878—1968). Sinclair’s writing, even at its most poignant or electrifying, blurred the line between politics and art–and, indeed, his life followed a similar arc. In Radical Innocent: Upton Sinclair, Anthony Arthur weaves the strands of Sinclair’s contentious public career and his often-troubled private life into a compelling personal narrative.

An unassuming teetotaler with a fiery streak, called a propagandist by some, the most conservative of revolutionaries by others, Sinclair was such a driving force of history that one could easily mistake his life story for historical fiction. He counted dozens of epochal figures as friends or confidants, including Mark Twain, Jack London, Henry Ford, Thomas Mann, H. G. Wells, Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt, Albert Einstein, Charlie Chaplin, Albert Camus, and Carl Jung.

Starting with The Jungle in 1906, Sinclair’s fiction and nonfiction helped to inform and mold American opinions about socialism, labor and industry, religion and philosophy, the excesses of the media, American political isolation and pacifism, civil liberties, and mental and physical health.

In his later years, Sinclair twice reinvented himself, first as the Democratic candidate for governor of California in 1934, and later, in his sixties and seventies, as a historical novelist. In 1943 he won a Pulitzer Prize for Dragon’s Teeth, one of eleven novels featuring super-spy Lanny Budd.

Outside the literary realm, the ever-restless Sinclair was seemingly everywhere: forming Utopian artists’ colonies, funding and producing Sergei Eisenstein’s film documentaries, and waging consciousness-raising political campaigns. Even when he wasn’t involved in progressive causes or counterculture movements, his name often was invoked by them–an arrangement that frequently embroiled Sinclair in controversy.

Sinclair’ s passion and optimistic zeal inspired America, but privately he could be a frustrated, petty man who connected better with his readers than with members of his own family. His life with his first wife, Meta, his son David, and various friends and professional acquaintances was a web of conflict and strain. Personally and professionally ambitious, Sinclair engaged in financial speculation, although his wealth-generating schemes often benefited his pet causes–and he lobbied as tirelessly for professional recognition and awards as he did for government reform. As the tenor of his work would suggest, Sinclair was supremely human.

In Radical Innocent: Upton Sinclair, Anthony Arthur offers an engrossing and enlightening account of Sinclair’s life and the country he helped to transform. Taking readers from the Reconstruction South to the rise of American power to the pinnacle of Hollywood culture to the Civil Rights era, this is historical biography at its entertaining and thought-provoking finest.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A hundred years ago, 27-year-old Upton Sinclair became an overnight sensation with the publication of his novel The Jungle, an indictment of the meatpacking industry that would usher in legislation like the Pure Food and Drug Act. The social reformer went on to shock his friends by leaving the American Socialist Party and winning the 1934 Democratic nomination for governor of California, although he lost the election. And at 65, despite a string of failed novels, the resilient author won the 1943 Pulitzer Prize for Dragon's Teeth, the second in an 11-book series of historical novels featuring the hero Lanny Budd. Particularly interesting are the portrayals of Sinclair's friendships with luminaries like President Theodore Roosevelt, Sinclair Lewis and Albert Einstein; his ambitious experiments in communal living; and his shattering divorce from his first wife and estrangement from his son. Also noteworthy are his unsuccessful campaign for the Nobel Prize and his problematic business dealings with Russian film director Sergei Eisenstein. Arthur (Warring with Words: Famous Literary Feuds in America) draws a well-researched, balanced and fascinating portrait of a self-centered feminist who didn't understand women, a muckraker whose naïveté left him constantly vulnerable to human treachery, and a complex, bestselling celebrity who was often dismissed as a propagandist by the literary establishment. 16 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW. (On sale June 6)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Upton Sinclair (1898-1968) wrote nearly 90 books, but the only title most readers can name is The Jungle. Published a century ago, this indelible expose of the grotesquely cruel and unsanitary practices of Chicago's slaughterhouses made Sinclair famous, although the budding socialist intended to evoke sympathy for exploited workers, not instigate meatpacking reform. Near misses are an ongoing theme in Arthur's enlightening, frequently stinging biography as he describes Sinclair first as a bookish boy marked by his father's alcoholism, then as a "romantic idealist" with a fierce work ethic. Arthur organizes a vast amount of information into a fast-flowing, witty, and incisive narrative as he sets the political and artistic context for each of Sinclair's bold ventures and cogently explains why so many of Sinclair's ambitious books failed: he wrote too much too quickly, overburdened fiction with propaganda, and lacked "psychological sensitivity." Tireless and mercurial, Sinclair went after the oil industry, the press, and religion; self-published books commercial houses balked at; and ran for governor of California. Arthur does right by his demanding subject, deepening our understanding of Sinclair as impassioned, "eccentric and difficult," altruistic, and, in spite of his muckraking, curiously innocent. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • File Size: 2318 KB
  • Print Length: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Random House (December 18, 2007)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000XUBE7A
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,125,028 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
I was not familiar with the works of Upton Sinclair, but drawn to this book via a review in the New York Times. Sinclair was definitely a man out of sync with his times, as he would be if he were living now. I did not know that after many years as a socialist, he switched to the Democratic Party to run for Governor in California in 1934. He was involved in all types of progressive causes concerning labor/industry, the media, civil liberties, and health care. He won the Pulitzer Prize for his historical novel, Dragon's Teeth, which is a fictional account of the beginning of Adolph Hitler's Third Reich. I've tracked down a copy of that (now out of print) and am reading it due to the parallel with our time and the rise of what some are calling American fascism. (There, I've shown my hand). Nevertheless,

this biography is very well written and compelling. I took it with me on a beach vacation and had no problem finishing it.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Dr. Anthony Arthur has written a superb biography of Upton

Sinclair (1878-1968) whose long, colorful and controversial career in writing novels and in California politics takes the

reader through the twentieth century.

Sinclair was born to a fading southern family with aristocratic pretensions in Baltimore. His father died a drunk;

he was not close to his mother. Sinclair grew up in New York

graduating from CCNY and attending the Columbia Law School. As

an only child he was coddled at home. Sinclair was an eccentric

who always had self confidence in his amazing intellectual gifts.

Sinclair married Meta Fuller in 1900 with the union producing a son David (who later became a scientist) They lived in tents in Princeton where Sinclair labored on his novels and articles.

The couple divorced after they both had several affairs. The

lifestyle of the Sinclairs was bohemian with the young family living in communal situations as Helicote in New Jersey

and others.

Sinclair would wed two more times in his long life. His reputation is solidly based on his expose of the meat industry in 1906's "The Jungle" and the Lanny Budd novels beginning with

"World's End". Sinclair won a Pulitzer Prize. He was a friend of

such luminaries as Albert Einstein; Jack London; HG Welles and

George Bernard Shaw. He dabbled in film work getting to know Chalrie Chaplin and many other directors and actors.

Sinclair was arrested several times for marching in union

protests. He was high strung and a man who valued his privacy.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars hopelessly biased March 30, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book endlessly praises Sinclair's socialism, blindly ignoring his soft spot for Stalin and propaganda in the service if Marxism. Author is taken with his subject.
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0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Haven't read it yet. June 6, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I haven't read this work yet - but have read books written by Upton - so I want to know more about the influences that shaped his orientation. Sinclair Lewis in "It Can't Happen Here" (written in 1935) presents a rather scathing cratique of Upton - and I want to know why - since both were contemporary authors of an interesting period within American History.
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