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.
news from European correspondents alerted some Americans, including the Sinclairs, to the possibility of armed conﬂict. Hunter Kimbrough, Craig’s younger brother, remembers “they saw World War I coming on.”¹²4 Upton Sinclair’s friend, J. G. Phelps Stokes, was known in New York as “the millionaire Socialist.” He made arrangements for his butler to bring David back to the States. Sinclair placed David in a North Carolina school run by C. Hanford Henderson, “whose wise and gracious book about
detail, a reminder that an absent or unavailable parent is often the more intriguing one to a child. His father was proud of his clothing and interested in food. “What was the size and ﬂavor of Blue Point oysters as compared to Lynnhaven Bays? Why was it impossible to obtain properly cooked food north of Baltimore? Would the straw hats of next season have high or low brims?”¹¹ Sinclair remembered these kinds of preoccupations. Well-dressed or not, Sinclair recalled, “everywhere he went he had to
protect family members from the poverty and frequent abuse that was perceived to be caused by alcohol. Lack of clean water meant that weak beer was a healthy alternative for much of the population. Men bonded over beer; masculinity was constructed through a status ritual based on European customs of hospitality.¹7 Beyond 6 1878–1892 that, since the sixteenth century, men had engaged in a wave of overindulgence in distilled spirits. Just prior to her marriage, Priscilla would have heard of the
move,” if we care to push hard enough and care to have it move. margaret sanger, 1957 In early 1950 the Sinclairs rented out the house in Monrovia and moved to the desert town of Corona, hungry for cleaner air and needing family support. Craig’s brother Hunter Kimbrough had moved to nearby Riverside in 1948 with his family to open an automobile insurance business. He knew that his sister and Sinclair were growing too old to look after themselves without some assistance, so he checked regularly
Christmas party he had attended with May.59 Sinclair also kept up his efforts to understand his son’s scientiﬁc work, of which he was very proud, especially David’s patented device for making air-pollution particles visible, called the Sinclair Phoenix Smoke Photometer. “Say all the loving things that are in your heart,” May advised him, and his letters to David after 1955 reﬂect that advice.60 In 1963 Ron Gottesman published A Catalogue of Books, Manuscripts, and Other Materials from the Upton