Upton Sinclair: California Socialist, Celebrity Intellectual
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Had Upton Sinclair not written a single book after The Jungle, he would still be famous. But Sinclair was a mere twenty-five years old when he wrote The Jungle, and over the next sixty-five years he wrote nearly eighty more books and won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction. He was also a filmmaker, labor activist, women’s rights advocate, and health pioneer on a grand scale. This new biography of Sinclair underscores his place in the American story as a social, political, and cultural force, a man who more than any other disrupted and documented his era in the name of social justice.
Upton Sinclair: California Socialist, Celebrity Intellectual shows us Sinclair engaged in one cause after another, some surprisingly relevant today—the Sacco-Vanzetti trial, the depredations of the oil industry, the wrongful imprisonment of the Wobblies, and the perils of unchecked capitalism and concentrated media. Throughout, Lauren Coodley provides a new perspective for looking at Sinclair’s prodigiously productive life. Coodley’s book reveals a consistent streak of feminism, both in Sinclair’s relationships with women—wives, friends, and activists—and in his interest in issues of housework and childcare, temperance and diet. This biography will forever alter our picture of this complicated, unconventional, often controversial man whose whole life was dedicated to helping people understand how society was run, by whom, and for whom.
stories for the next day. When the United States jumped into war with Spain over Cuba and the Philippines, Sinclair sent his ﬁctional heroes into naval battles in Cuba. Mark Twain and other anti-imperialists developed a scorching critique of the war, one that the older Upton Sinclair of 1905 would surely have echoed.³0 German scholar Dieter Herms thought the West Point stories were worth investigating for themes that would recur in the work of the mature Sinclair.³¹ He notes about one of the
have a drink before the deal was made and then they celebrated by another drink after the deal was made.”¹² His father’s drinking was responsible for the dismal living conditions of the family: “I 5 Southern Gentlemen Drank remember boarding-house and lodging-house rooms. We never had but one room at a time, and I slept on a sofa or crossways at the foot of my parent’s bed.”¹³ Wendy Gamber’s research on American boardinghouses reveals that after the Civil War, “home” represented far more than
and carry his stickers on our automobiles. There are sixty of us in the department who are using the stickers, but we are all voting for Sinclair.” When Hoyt boarded a streetcar, the conductor told him, “If he isn’t elected, we’re sunk.”95 In Japan a reporter commented that although the odds were against him, Sinclair was “now having advantages in the campaign, because of his popularity as a writer, of his Puritan way of life as well as his outlook, of his sympathy with the proletariat.”96 In the
Changed by Upton Sinclair.” Smith grew up in Centralia, Washington, and retained a vivid memory of the Armistice Day clash between Legionnaires and iww members there in 1919. She recalls her father telling her, “When you go into a meat market and see the government seal on a quarter of beef, you 173 Afterword will know it is there because of Upton Sinclair.”¹5 She went to the library, got The Jungle, and read it. “My entire life was changed and I owe it all to Upton Sinclair. His quotation,
played tennis in the summers LEXINGTON AVE W. 65TH ST Location of a boarding house where the Sinclair family lived. Southern Gentlemen Drank colored people,’ Southerners, teetotalers, and disciples of the food reformer Sylvester Graham.”46 Roughly between a third and a half of nineteenth-century urban residents either took in boarders or were boarders themselves. The Sinclair family lived longest at the Hotel Weisiger on West Nineteenth Street, a rundown establishment where Colonel Weisiger