Upton Sinclair: California Socialist, Celebrity Intellectual

Upton Sinclair: California Socialist, Celebrity Intellectual

Lauren Coodley

Language: English

Pages: 256

ISBN: 0803243820

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

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.
















against the ignorance and superstition that makes it impossible for the masses of the people to use that knowledge.”4³ David Sinclair was born on December 1, 1901. Sinclair sat with Meta during her fourteen-hour labor, and soon afterward he put the experience into seven thousand words of prose. One publisher told him that although it was well done, he wouldn’t touch it due to the graphic nature of the material. Sinclair chose to include the scene in Love’s Pilgrimage, published a decade later.

completed his novel about the oil industry, the Sinclairs moved closer to their Signal Hill properties in Long Beach, right across the harbor from San Pedro. From there he wrote to his readers: “Too many visitors got my Pasadena street address. I wish I were double, one to see visitors and be human, and the other to study and write books. As it is, mcs and I have eloped and are hiding in a post office box.”¹²³ “Station B” was the name of the post office at Redondo Avenue. With the two houses they

historical novels.”6 But Thornton Wilder, not Upton Sinclair, won the 1928 Pulitzer Prize for the novel The Bridge of San Luis Rey. The chairman of the Pulitzer Selection Committee wrote to Sinclair that Boston “only missed winning because of its socialist tone.”7 That year Sinclair turned fifty. Two years later, when Sinclair Lewis won the Nobel Prize in Literature, he scolded the judges for not having honored his mentor Upton Sinclair, “of whom you must say, whether you admire or detest his

Meta. John Stone remembered Meta’s complaints about Sinclair, which she believed led David to three years of daily psychoanalysis. Stone wrote, “I’ve met David several times and he seems to be okay now and he eats the same as most people. He even drinks, quite regularly, 146 1940–1949 and likes a pre-dinner cocktail.”75 During the war, David Sinclair was part of a group of scientists doing research for the government at Columbia University. They invented an aerosol generator used to create

Books released my collection of Sinclair’s writings about California. Shortly thereafter, I was contacted by Walter Hermann, whose father had traveled around Northern California during the epic Campaign. From the campaign bus he had screened The Jungle, onto which supporters had spliced a campaign ad. One of the five reels was missing, but I was able to view this magnificent film and find a home for it at the ucla Film and Television Archive. Upton Sinclair’s intellectual heirs include Barbara

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