Upton Sinclair: California Socialist, Celebrity Intellectual

Upton Sinclair: California Socialist, Celebrity Intellectual

Upton Sinclair: California Socialist, Celebrity Intellectual

Upton Sinclair: California Socialist, Celebrity Intellectual


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.


Upton Sinclair both disrupted and documented his era. the impact of his most famous work, The Jungle, would merit him a place in American history had he never written another book. Yet he wrote nearly eighty more, publishing most of them himself. What Sinclair did was both simple and profound: he committed his life to helping people of his era understand how society was run, by whom and for whom. His aim was nothing less than to “bury capitalism under a barrage of facts,” as Howard Zinn describes it.

Upton Sinclair introduced himself to American readers in 1906 with the publication of The Jungle, his exposé of the meatpacking industry. He was only twenty-five years old. For the next six decades, he would remain an unconventional, often controversial, and always innovative character in American life. He was also a filmmaker, a labor activist, a women’s rights advocate, and a health pioneer on the grandest scale — a lifetime surprisingly relevant for twenty-first-century Americans.

A hundred years ago, investigative journalism was just being conceived, and Sinclair’s undercover reporting on the conditions in a meatpacking plant may have been its birthing moment. Filmmaking was beginning to change the way stories were told and how people gained access to information. His friends were experimenting with sexual freedom and birth control, but the shadow of . . .

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