cover image Radical Innocent: Upton Sinclair

Radical Innocent: Upton Sinclair

Anthony Arthur, . . Random, $27.95 (380pp) ISBN 978-1-4000-6151-8

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)