Writer and master muckraker Upton Sinclair catapulted to fame with his exposÅ½ novel on the meatpacking industry, The Jungle, which instigated the Pure Food and Drug Act. This year, Sinclair's timely masterpiece turns 100, and Fulbright scholar Anthony Arthur gives us an excellent, balanced tribute to the author's life, literary achievements and still relevant social platform.
Radical Innocent: Upton Sinclair is an absorbing chronology; Arthur knows his subject well and appreciates the oxymoron of Sinclair's austere personal habits and impassioned idealistic impulses. Chapters place Sinclair's life into distinct identities (progressing from The Penniless Rat to The Sage ) following the publishing career of an outspoken social reformer and tireless, disciplined novelist who was the most conservative of revolutionaries. Arthur expertly contextualizes Sinclair's life amid the rambunctious 20th-century milieu: Sinclair found celebrity at 27, had a long (eventually aborted) association with the American Socialist Party, a run in the 1943 California gubernatorial race, a Pulitzer Prize for Dragon's Teeth (starring the inimitable Lanny Budd), and three marriages. Alison Hood is a writer in San Rafael, California.